Topographer Royal

William Vaughan

  • The Diary of Joseph Farington RA: Vols V and VI (1 August 1801-31 December 1804) edited by Kenneth Garlick
    Yale (for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art), 447 pp, £15.00, October 1979, ISBN 0 300 02418 5

For over fifty years the diary of Joseph Farington – topographer, academician and formidable art politician – has been recognised as an invaluable source of information about English artists of the Romantic period. Running from 1793, when the compiler was 46, to his death 28 years later, it covers one of the most exciting times in the history of British painting. The two great landscapists Turner and Constable were developing their mature styles, the suave portraitist Lawrence and the startling fantasist Fuseli were at the height of their powers, and that embarrassing outsider William Blake was issuing book after book of illuminated prophecy. Farington himself was not a major participant in this rich flowering: his meticulous, straight-laced art belongs more to an earlier age. But he was a great observer.

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