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Simon Denis, Sunset in the Roman Campagna

Key facts
Full title Sunset in the Roman Campagna
Artist Simon Denis
Artist dates 1755 - 1813
Date made about 1800
Medium and support Oil on paper
Dimensions 18.2 × 26.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1996
Inventory number NG6562
Location Room 42
Collection Main Collection
Sunset in the Roman Campagna
Simon Denis

Painted around 1800, this small oil sketch on canvas is a fine example of the type of study produced by artists working in Italy from about 1780 to 1850, who painted swiftly and directly from nature. Simon Denis’s oil studies are often of dramatic scenes from nature, particularly the spectacle of the sun setting among stormy clouds, which allowed him to show various intense light effects.

In this sketch, a thin strip of grey-green land at the bottom of the picture, which is otherwise filled by the expansive sky, anchors the composition and gives it scale, as do the buildings, possibly ruins, silhouetted against the horizon.

The entire sketch has been rapidly painted and Denis adjusts the handling of the paint according to the area on which he is working. The paint itself ranges from just a thin coating to the thickly painted highlights on the upper edges of the clouds, which evoke the brilliance of the sunlight behind them.

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