The poetic landscape presents the geography and architecture of landscape from a subjective point of view, using elements of myth, fantasy or the picturesque. These works form a long but complex tradition in European painting, culminating in the romantic landscape of the 19th century.

The poetic landscape style is important to watercolor painting because it developed many of the technical methods and artistic models that lifted the medium from topographical tinted drawings to finished and artistically ambitious paintings.

At its purest, the poetic landscape presents the viewer with an imaginary place. For the artist, the genre provided an opportunity to give creativity free reign to transform the characteristic features of Italian geography and architecture into mythical or pastoral fantasy. Even when painting actual Roman ruins, for example, the poetic painter (much like a stage director) was free to exaggerate the shape and height of mountains, delete or redesign buildings and objects, insert dramatically placed trees or human figures, and throw strongly contrasted lighting effects over it all. For art collectors, these richly glowing landscapes evoked nostalgic or elegiac emotional connections with the past, unlike their response to a topographer's dryly objective records of the present.

This genre is based on the idea, embraced by 18th century critics from the esthetic theory in the Poetics of Aristotle, that the "particular" or actual is imperfect; the "general" or idealized, because it embodies harmonious proportions and can be used to express elevated moral ideas, is the proper subject of art. These assumptions never applied to the empirical spirit of the topographical tradition, which followed the Dutch style of "landskip" drawing by sticking to the visual facts of an actual place as they appear from a specific location. Of course, topographical artists had their conventions too (it's always sunny in a topographical drawing), but the audience for poetical landscapes appreciated the paintings as visual expressions of complex moral and religious themes, larded with allusions and themes adapted from the classical style of landscape painting.



The majority of poetic landscapes closely imitate the works of the French painter Claude Gellée (c.1602-1682, also called Claude Lorrain or simply "Claude"), usually identified as the originator of the style. Claude spent most of his life painting the countryside around Rome, making wonderfully observant wash drawings in the field, then distilling the poetry of light and atmosphere in these drawings into his oil paintings of pastoral fantasies and mythological stories. His idealized world includes many stereotyped features: the poignant golden light of early morning or late afternoon; a foreground framed by the dark shadows of large trees and rocks; small gesturing figures placed to one side; a serenely expanding view of fields or rolling hills crossed by a winding river; a horizon dissolving into a luminous haze. Another Frenchman working in Rome, Gaspard Dughet (1615-1675, called "Poussin" in England), painted in a similar mode but with occasional mountainous vistas or looming storms. These bland, conventional landscapes were the dominant style, although the Italian Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) was famous for his "terrifying" views of stormy dark forests and craggy mountains. Within this limited imaginative range between serene and storm-tossed, these artists and their many imitators achieved an idealizing, poetic landscape style that was deemed "higher" in the hierarchy of art genres than plainspoken topographical drawings.

Landscape with Merchants (c.1630)

by Claude Lorrain

In England the popularity of Claude's paintings was almost an obsession, especially after the publication in 1777 of the Liber Veritatis, a compendium of 200 sepia mezzotint engravings after Claudean works. Many of Claude's landscape tricks became cliches in the works of English 18th century landscape painters. Foremost among these was the Welsh artist Richard Wilson (1713-1782), who was one of the first British painters to study and paint in Italy (from 1749-55), and thereafter made his career as the gently classicizing "English Claude." Wilson was influential for his brighter, fresher palette, and also for applying the Claudean conventions to recognizably British landmarks, in particular the mountains and castles of his native Wales. Wilson often distorts the vertical proportions or lighting to make these landmarks visually more dramatic: his paintings combine elements of the poetic and topographic styles. His many paintings of Welsh ruins and geographical landmarks recall the independent history of a proud and linguistically distinct region of Britain, replacing classical mythology with regional legend. Wilson was very popular among English and Welsh collectors and was a major influence in the development of a national school of English landscape painting.

The first English poetic landscape painter in watercolors was probably William Taverner (1703-1772), a Canterbury high judge and highly original amateur artist. Taverner loosely adopted some of Claude's oil painting cliches, but his major departures from the tinted drawing style of the topographers were in his use of pencil or chalk, rather than pen and ink, to create the underdrawing, and in his use of bodycolor or gouache for landscape painting, which Taverner may have learned or imitated from foreign artists working in England, for example Marco Ricci (1676-1729), an Italian gouache artist in London from 1710. Most of Taverner's "landscapes" are imagined or mythological scenes of Rome and the Italian countryside (which he had never seen), but some are recognizably English places painted in his personal mixture of topographical realism and romantic idealization. A Sandpit at Woolwich (c.1740, 36x70cm) borrows the Claudean dark shadowed foreground and decorative foliage, but the scene is made fresh by the complex interlocking patterns of hills and trees, which create intriguing variations in texture, tonal value and color. The decorative figures moved into the middle distance, the shallow perspective and the crisp light all help to emphasize these pattern variations. Taverner typically first laid a thin wash of sepia over a pencil or chalk drawing, over which he layered washes of pale watercolor, adding final accents of gouache or dark ink. He was known to many conoisseurs of the time but the extent of his influence is unclear: he "had much quaiking about shewing his pictures, which raised their reputation," and few of his surviving works are dated. However, Paul Sandby owned this drawing and dozens of others by Taverner and Richard Wilson, and must have admired Taverner's handling of color in the foliage and sky, his gently poetic and Italianate interpretation of a familiar and humble English location, and his use of bodycolor to increase the expressive range of watercolor effects beyond the pale tints common to the topographers.

Llyn Peris and Dolbadarn Castle (1764)

by Richard Wilson

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) is an important precursor to the picturesque style. Born in Suffolk and trained in London, Gainsborough moved to East Anglia and built his career as a portrait painter in oils, though he claimed to prefer landscapes. In 1759 he moved to Bath, just then becoming popular as a tourist resort, and there painted full length portraits of the vacationing nobility. A founding member of the Royal Academy and a rival of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Gainsborough finally left Bath to settle in London in 1774, but toured the Lake District in 1783. Gainsborough's full length portraits were in the style of the Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), who was court painter to Charles I in London in 1632-41. Van Dyck also introduced the Dutch tradition of landscape watercolor painting, and left in the Royal collections several beautiful watercolor impressions of the English countryside. It's likely Gainsborough acquired his appreciation of landscape watercolors from these or similar Dutch works, or from those of the French drawing master Jean-Baptiste Chatelain (1710-1771), who was immensely popular in London for his spacious rural landscapes. Gainsborough's surviving drawings employ a variety of media — pen, charcoal, chalk, watercolors and gouache, sometimes in monochrome and sometimes in color. Many of his watercolors are sketches for oil paintings, but he often made them as personal recreations, imaginative studies, or simply as special gifts for friends; unfortunately, he painted landscape watercolors much less frequently after moving to London. His Village Scene with Horsemen and Travellers (c.1765, 22x31cm) is in a style midway between his roughest sketches and few finished watercolors. Gainsborough often painted on blue or gray paper with an impatient, improvisatory brushstroke (what admirers called his "magic dash"); clouds and trees in particular are handled with a unique shorthand that seems to suggest light broken by rustling leaves in a summer breeze. The style suited impromptu sketches that Gainsborough would make during afternoon rides in the countryside around Bath. But it was also intended to free his imagination from concerns for detail or accuracy. Gainsborough would entertain dinner guests at Bath by arranging model landscapes to draw — using a mirror for a lake, moss for shrubs and sprigs of broccoli for trees, all lit by candlelight to simulate that romantic Claudean shimmer. This approach gave his poetic imagination full sway, and his guests and patrons fondly remembered his "emanations of genius and picturesque feeling." In this method Gainsborough was anticipating the approach that Alexander Cozens would devise to assist the imagination of students; in fact, Gainsborough sometimes painted his shadows with a sponge tied to the end of a stick, and held his white chalk with tea tongs, apparently to increase the looseness and spontaneity of his drawing strokes. His methods and style also affected Paul Sandby and Dr. Thomas Munro, and through them the Romantic generation of watercolor painters.

English Landscape (c.1635)

by Anthony van Dyck

The landscapes of Taverner and Gainsborough already reveal a basic tension: artists of the time aspired to paint an idealized imagined beauty, yet they were also drawn to natural observation and sketching from nature. The widely translated and influential Cours de Peinture par Principes (1708) by the French diplomat and art theorist Roger de Piles (1635-1709) commended the study of "accidents" of nature (passing effects of sunshine and clouds) by painting in oils out of doors. Artists in Rome (French and Italian) slowly developed the oil landscape sketch, which remained primarily a European method; in England, sketching out of doors was preferentially done with watercolors. But these sketch materials were brought into finished paintings only through a complex process of visual editing, motivated by a belief that artistic value depended on how far the artist had "improved" on nature. Thus, a poetically idealized scene was "higher" in the hierarchy of art values than an image carefully recorded with a camera obscura. A painting with a skillful finish was higher than a spontaneous sketch. A park improved according to the principles of landscape gardening was more beautiful than a natural field. In addition, historical painting was deemed a "higher" or more ennobling form of art than landscape (which in turn was "higher" than portraiture or still life); so landscapes often centered on historical ruins.

But toward the end of the 18th century, traditional art theories and painting genres grew increasingly inadequate to guide artists painting from nature or in new media such as watercolors (disparaged by academics as a kind of drawing). English artists also wanted to develop an art theory that justified a national or English school of painting, which stimulated them to rethink the theories inherited from French or Italian practice: watercolors, for example, were increasingly described as a uniquely English art. These and other trends challenged the essentially arbitrary distinctions of traditional art theory. The theories were defensively modified, rationalized and asserted by the newly founded Royal Academy of Arts under Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose judgments strongly influenced the prestige of artists and their reception by wealthy patrons.

To appreciate the peculiar struggle between theory and practice in the 18th century, and the importance of artistic convention to esthetic expectations, consider the Claude glass. This was a small, convex, darkened mirror that gave a wide angle, dark and somber view of any landscape. Artists would turn their back to the natural landscape, contemplating its darkened and distorted reflection instead (not a bad metaphor for the effects of philosophy and religion in general). At the opposite extreme from the camera obscura used by some topographers, this implement suggests that considerable visual imagination was needed to transform the facts of natural observation into the stereotypes of poetic landscape painting.

The British (Irish) philosopher Edmund Burke (1730-1797) attempted a pseudoscientific justification for the dominant art categories in his Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757). Burke proposed that the idea of the sublime originates in the essentially fearful responses necessary for individual survival, aroused by physical danger, wildness, or natural power (mountains were thereby justified as sublime artistic settings). The beautiful, in contrast, originates in the sexual reproductive responses necessary for social survival, aroused by feminine qualities such as a gentle manner, neatness, and a curving softness of form. (The male perspective is always assumed in the 18th century!) When physical danger or rounded softness is abstracted into art, the result is to soften the emotional response to the real world into an esthetic response. Around this theory Burke wove a complex analysis linking the sublime and beautiful to specific situations, feelings, and artistic conventions, such as the use of "sad and fuscous" [somber and dark] colors and the avoidance of green in "sublime" painting. Obviously, Burke was thinking within the limited alternatives of the "beautiful" style of Claude and the "sublime" style of Rosa or Dughet. Burke's contemporaries even saw English localities in these terms: the softly rolling lands of southwest Devonshire were beautiful, while the craggy vistas of north Wales or the Lake Country were sublime. However, by arguing that esthetic response is anchored not in the intellect but in the most primitive emotional impulses of human nature, Burke opened the way to early romantic interpretations of art.

an artist using a Claude glass

by Gainsborough

The empirical and pragmatic temper of 18th century English society found increasing pleasure in natural observation, especially as part of recreational or educational travel. The Oxford educated cleric Rev. William Gilpin (1724-1804), a schoolmaster in Surrey for 25 years and founder of a progressive charitable institution, built an enormously influential theory on this convergence of travel and artistic recreation. An amateur but skilled drawing master who delighted in mentoring female artists, at midlife he conceived the idea of publishing a series of books describing picturesque tours to see the rural beauties and regional antiquities of England, in imitation of the Grand Tour to the ruins and mountains of the Continent. From 1768 to 1776 he made 9 summer voyages throughout England, Scotland and Wales, noting brief impressions during each trip that he expanded into rambling travel journals illustrated with engravings after his own monochrome drawings. Beginning with Observations on the River Wye, relative chiefly to Picturesque Beauty (1782), followed by eight similar works published up to 1809 (and a drawing manual written entirely in blank verse, On Landscape Painting in 1792), Gilpin contributed to the remarkable popularity of English landscape painting and domestic recreational trips during the last decade of the 18th century. (French revolutionary wars on the continent, and a rapidly improving system of national roads, mattered too.) According to Gilpin, the term picturesque was "expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty which is agreeable in a picture," which he set up as a new type of beauty alongside Burke's beautiful and sublime. At its core, the picturesque was characterized by a roughness and variety of subject, painted in broad and simplified contrasts of value, with a laconic absence of fussy details; and the artist was entirely free to alter the actual appearance of things to produce a desired artistic effect. Gilpin's Landscape with Ruined Castle (c.1790, 36x27cm), a watercolor sketch from which the book etchings were made, shows this definition in practice. (The similarities to the painting above by Richard Wilson suggest the importance of the Claudean landscape to Gilpin's inspiration.) The drawing is in a single color (monochrome), a common topographical technique that simplifies the tools a travelling artist might need — sketchbook, pencil, reed pen, a brush or two, and a bottle of ink. But Gilpin was no topographer: he advised his readers to paint general scenes rather than specific places. "In passing through a country you may not have opportunities of giving the exact portrait of any one particular scene, but this is not necessary; perhaps the most useful illustrations of local scenery are those which give the character of the views by a pleasing arrangement of ideas taken from the general face of the country. A portrait characterizes only a single spot, and the recollection of it becomes indistinct and confused as soon as the place is passed." The key is that Gilpin's "peculiar beauty" is remembered rather than observed directly — and remembered specifically for artistic ends. Although he did not develop his theory systematically (perhaps to avoid direct confrontation with those quarrelsome academicians), Gilpin suggested that the most "memorable" picturesque subjects were the decaying castles and churches that were remains of England's fabled past (and reminders of a distinctive English "character"). By appealing directly to artists through his popular publications, avoiding academic theories entirely, providing simple technical guidance and lyrical landscape descriptions, Gilpin empowered artists to follow their personal memories and creative impulses. He freed the picturesque style of stifling topographical or academic standards of performance, while encouraging lyrical and sentimental expression in the amateur pursuit of landscape art.

This growing link between landscape and esthetic feeling led many artists to make extensive observations of nature that would clarify a wider range of landscape phenomena, and identify what it was about natural events that stimulated specific emotional responses in the viewer. The art pedagogue Alexander Cozens (c.1717-1786) was the by far the most innovative and systematic in these efforts. Son of an English engineer working in St. Petersberg (Russia), Cozens was educated in England, then spent two years (1746-48) studying landscape technique at the studio of Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) in Rome. Back in England, he taught amateurs in London and Bath, and art classes at Eton College (near Windsor) from 1763-68 while he perfected his systematic theory of landscape design. First published as The Various Species of Landscape Composition (1759), Cozens identified 16 "compositions" or basic landscape themes — "the edge of a hill, or mountain, near the eye" (number 1), "a landscape on one hand, the sea on the other" (3), "a waterfall" (8), "two hills, mountains, or rocks, opposite each other" (9). He also identified 27 "circumstances" — times of the day, seasons, types of weather — in which these landscapes could be viewed. Cozens paid special attention to the sky and clouds (among the special beauties of the English landscape) to express these different circumstances. The two Studies of a Sky (c.1770, each 12x15cm) explore the poetic implications of the sky in shafts of light or piling clouds, painted with extreme picturesque simplicity and strong contrasts of light and dark. Cozens's idea was that these skies or "circumstances" could be swapped among his basic landscape compositions to produce a large number of different poetic images. Cozens also systematically explored the various ways in which sketches can be made from nature, searching out the best combination of techniques to achieve specific effects. The deep point is that by these systematic procedures, Cozens was attempting to define and test all possible combinations of landscape beauty, with the same thoroughness that a scientist of the time might search for new chemical elements. Cozens's emphasis on natural observation led John Constable to study Cozens's work carefully and make detailed copies of his illustrations; the general approach must also have influenced Alexander's teaching curriculum at Eton.

Careful observation of nature can produce an obsession with detail or accuracy that can cramp a beginning artist's imagination. Cozens certainly encountered this common problem in his long career as a drawing master (which culminated in his appointment in 1781 as drawing instructor to the Royal princes, following Paul Sandby). So he developed a radical method to overcome common blocks to the poetic imagination, published in 1786 as an Essay to Facilitate the Inventing of Landskips, Intended for Students in the Art. Called "blot painting," the method is intended to lift the student above the inhibitions of drawing — perspective, neatness, details, and accurate proportions — that extinguish inspiration before it can take wing. Using a large sheet of paper that had been crumpled and then flattened to give it an unpredictable surface, the student painted with ink the major forms of an imaginary landscape (the scene first must be visualized as a whole, very clearly, probably using one of Cozens's compositions and circumstances), working "with the swiftest hand to make all possible variety of strokes upon the paper, confining the disposition of the whole to the general subject in the mind." This "blot painting" was then ruled with a grid and copied freehand onto a blank watercolor sheet as the basic landscape outline. Because the student is only making and tracing blots, his worries about accuracy and details give way to a concern for broad effects (a point of similarity with Gainsborough and Gilpin). Creativity is given more power because the whole composition is first painted in the most liberating medium of all — the mind — then the effects of chance are used to get this imaginative vision onto paper without hesitation or second guessing; critical judgment is allowed a limited role, if any, only in the final stages, when the blots are made into an outline drawing or when the drawing is made into a painting. A Rocky Landscape (c.1785, 23x30cm) shows the blot (top) and traced painting (bottom) that correspond to Cozens' second landscape composition ("the tops of hills, or mountains"). This "blot" method was ridiculed by a few artists at the time, but Cozens retorted that he got the idea from Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks (translated into English in 1721), which quote Sandro Botticelli's idea that "just by throwing a sponge soaked in many colors at a wall there would be left on the wall a stain in which could be seen a beautiful landscape." (Though Leonardo added, "these stains may supply inventions but they do not teach you how to finish any detail. And [Botticelli] makes very sorry landscapes.") In one form or another, the technique of inserting chance into the creative process has been a popular poetic device ever since — for example, in the "pouring and chasing around" of color used as the first step in paintings by J.M.W. Turner, or in the wet in wet methods advocated today by Barbara Nechis and Nita Engle, among others. According to Constable's notes, Cozens's rocky landscape was associated with the emotions of surprise, terror, superstition, silence, melancholy, power, strength — feelings equivalent to Burke's conception of the sublime. But now the sublime is just one of many possible combinations of images and emotional reactions, all at the command of the imaginatively liberated artist.

The most famous product of Alexander's teaching methods was his son and star pupil, John Robert Cozens (1752-1797), whom the English painter John Constable called "the greatest genius that ever touched landscape." The British Museum contains a book of compositions made by Alexander "for the instruction of my son," probably used before John first exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1767 (at age 15). In 1768-74 John made several sketching trips with his father to picturesque locations around London, Ipswich and Bath. In 1776 Cozens exhibited a major history painting in oils at the Royal Academy, then embarked on his first Grand Tour in the company of the wealthy art collector and dilettante antiquarian Richard Payne Knight (1750-1824), then age 26. They were away three years, and traveled through the mountains of Savoy, across Switzerland, and through Florence to Rome. Nearly all Cozens's drawings made on this trip were outlined in pen and filled in with yellowish gray monochrome tints, in images that testify to the influence of Alexander's teachings and painting style; others were elaborated copies done in Rome or in London after his return in 1779. In 1782-83 Cozens made his second journey to Rome, this time via Germany and the Austrian Alps and as far south as Naples, in the company of the moody but brilliant William Beckford (1760-1844), at that time the wealthiest man in England. Beckford conveyed his party of friends and servants in several lavishly equipped carriages, and apparently influenced Robert's choice and interpretation of scenes recorded along the way.

The Gulf of Salerno (c.1790, 37x53cm) is one of the late copies Cozens made of his sketch of the coast near Salerno, south of Naples, visited during the Beckford journey. The origins of this drawing seem plain: his father's sketch of streaming sunlight (shown above) joined with the third composition type ("a landscape on one hand, the sea on the other"). But in comparison to other landscape paintings of the time, this is an innovative picture. There is the emphasis (common in Cozens) on contrasts of light and shadow or chiaroscuro. The muted color scheme in Cozens's Italian drawings rarely departs from grayish blue or grayish green colors, occasionally accented with browns or unsaturated reds and yellows; his entire palette seems to have consisted of crimson lake, indian red, burnt sienna, burnt umber, yellow ochre, prussian blue or indigo, and ivory black. By using a subdued warm/cool palette, the effects of light and dark are made more forceful, and the whole picture achieves an austerity consistent with the idea of the sublime. (Burke had written that green was a color incompatible with the sublime, and from similar feelings Cozens seems to have shunned it.) But most important is the remarkable spaciousness and dignity of the image, reminiscent of the Alpine paintings of William Pars. Cozens displayed an unmistakable new willingness to let his imagination and passion take wing, and it was this undisguised lyricism and earnestness that his contemporaries found so remarkable about his work. His paintings elevated mountains in general and the Alps in particular as the most romantic of natural scenery.

About 100 drawings and seven quarto sketchbooks (in pen or pencil) survive from the Beckford trip; many of the sketches were later ticked to indicate the number of times Cozens made a larger, more finished copy for sale in England. These vary widely in finish and poetic mood. Castel Gandolfo on the Lake of Albano (c.1785, 43x63cm), based on another drawing from the Beckford trip, portrays one of the most picturesque and frequently visited stops on the Grand Tour: about 15 miles south of Rome and at a height of 2,600 feet, the Lake Albano lies in the caldera of an extinct volcano; the castle was (and still is) the summer residence of the Pope. Cozens made almost a dozen sketches from different vantages around Albano and the nearby Lake Nemi, and sometimes made a dozen finished drawings from each sketch — varied slightly for different patrons but also from an apparently inexhaustible personal fascination with the scene. The dull color yellow of the sky, which is more characteristic of drawings made during Cozens's first Italian trip, is made more foreboding by the fantastically shaped central tree, which swirls over the sun like an eruption of ink. The sense of menace is increased by the only human form, a tiny shepherd hurrying his sheep home to the cote, who is placed so far below the tree as to exaggerate its size. Cozens built the textures and volumes of his pictures with many tiny, overlapping strokes of the brush, not the broad areas of wash typical of topographical paintings or the works of Thomas Girtin; this texturing or stippling brush technique had a particular impact on J.M.W. Turner, who used similar coloring methods throughout his career.

There is little information about Cozens after he returned to England in 1783. He married and had two children, continued to paint, and supported his family through the sale of drawings elaborated from his Italian sketches. He was appointed drawing master to the Royal family in 1787-88. Then suddenly, in 1794 at age 41, he was struck down by a catastrophic, "paralytic" illness. (This is often termed a "mental" illness in the art historical literature, but from available evidence it was more likely a massive stroke.) He was nursed by Dr. Thomas Munro, the expenses paid with donations raised by Payne Knight and Sir George Beaumont (1753-1827) — the erratic Beckford had for some reason turned against him — but Cozens never recovered, and died in 1797. The paintings from his final years achieve a loftiness of poetic vision unmatched by any other English landscape artist of the age. He painted only a few landscapes of England, but his View of Windsor from the South West (1792, 49x70cm) shows that his poetic powers were never stronger. The Claudean dark foreground has been transformed from something stagey into a completely convincing forest setting; the high clouds part to reveal a gently lightening rose light that is soft and naturalistic, not the lurid light of the earlier works. The supple strong forms of the tree trunks and the scattered airy texture of the leaves impart a wonderful sense of discovery to the peaceful town of Windsor glimpsed in the distance. The shafts of light, bright pelts of the deer on their morning graze, and the dark greens and browns of the forest add to the embracing sense of shelter. This luxuriant use of green — new in Cozens's pictures — seems to express the gratitude of a new father or an artist with an unbounded future. And although this is a view of a real place from a specific location, the poetic liberties taken with landscape and light are unmistakable. The topographical drawing and poetic landscape traditions have been fused.

Despite his untimely death, Cozens developed in his paintings a poetic style that deeply influenced J.M.W. Turner and to a lesser extent Thomas Girtin, the two artists who together copied (and reinterpreted) most of the Cozens works for Dr. Munro in his "academy" in the mid 1790's. Constable wrote that "Cozens was all poetry," and through Cozens the poetic landscape tradition was able to inspire a generation of artists trained as topographers and etchers to achieve a new kind of watercolor beauty.

See also The topographical tradition.

The most lucid discussion of the poetic landscape tradition appears in British Watercolours from the Oppé Collection by Anne Lyles and Robin Hamlyn (Tate Gallery, 1997). Equally good but more compact is Nature Into Art: English Landscape Watercolors from the British Museum (British Museum Press, 1991), with essay and notes by Lindsay Stainton. On Cozens father and son, the best study is the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition catalog Alexander and John Robert Cozens: The Poetry of Landscape by Kim Sloan (Yale University Press, 1986). Martin Hardie's Water-Colour Painting in Britain: I. The Eighteenth Century (Batsford, 1966) contains an excellent discussion of both artists. Michael Clarke's The Tempting Prospect: A Social History of English Watercolors (British Museum Publications, 1981) provides a more detailed discussion of Gilpin, sketching tours and various landscape viewing aids. For a gently satirical view of the Continental Grand Tour, highlighting the amorous and criminal encounters that came with it, there's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768) by Laurence Sterne.