South: Grand tours and the origins of the picturesque

The Paul Mellon lectures: Global landscape in the age of Empire

Find out how the ‘picturesque’ has its origins in the Grand Tour

Artists such as Richard Wilson flocked to admire and paint the ruins of ancient Rome, often with the rising British Empire in mind.

Captain Cook’s voyages to the South Pacific can be seen as an extended Grand Tour, with the painter William Hodges, who voyaged with him, launching a global picturesque.

This lecture is part of The Paul Mellon lecture series: Global landscape in the age of Empire. Book all five lectures, and save.

Global landscape in the age of Empire

How does the rise of landscape painting connect with the British Empire?

This five-part lecture series follows British 18th- and 19th-century artists to Australia, the Caribbean, India, and the Americas. Learn how they struggled to adapt landscape traditions to represent the terrain and people they confronted.

Their encounters with other civilisations were often violent and the resulting paintings and prints – by artists such as Richard Wilson, Turner and Frederic Church – were vivid, ambivalent, responses to an often painful history.

The Paul Mellon lectures

Named in honour of the philanthropist and collector of British art, Paul Mellon, these biennial lectures are given by a distinguished historian of British art.

Tim Barringer, the Paul Mellon Professor and Chair of the Department of the History of Art at Yale University, delivers this year's lectures.

Barringer specialises in the 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century art of Britain and the British Empire, 19th-century American and German art, and museum studies.

His many publications include 'Men at Work: Art and Labour in Victorian Britain' (2005) and 'Art and the British Empire' (2007). He is co-curator, with Elizabeth Kornhauser, of Thomas Cole: Eden to Empire (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and National Gallery, London, 2018). He is finishing a book, 'Broken Pastoral: Art and Music in Britain, Gothic Revival to Punk Rock.'

Image above: Detail from William Hodges, 'A View of Matavai Bay in the Island of Otaheite [Tahiti]', 1776 © Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection