John Linnell (British, 1792–1882)
Watercolor over graphite on paper
4 x 5 1/2 in. (10.2 x 14 cm)
Purchase, Guy Wildenstein Gift, 2000 (2000.238)
Compact, luminous, and intense, the View of Kensington Gardens presents a decidedly un-Picturesque view. Beneath dense clouds and distant trees, two wooden poles and a tiled-roofed structure punctuate a raw, sloping patch of earth. Linnell recorded this view at his most revolutionary moment: the period immediately following his move (in 1811) to an area of London surrounded by open fields, when he acquired a camera obscura, converted to a nonconformist Christian sect, and, influenced by William Paley's Natural Theology (1802), sought direct proof of God's creation in the landscape. For Linnell, the meticulous representation of nature became a moral imperative. To achieve it, he developed a distinctive technique, involving small touches of pure color, that anticipates the work of his protégé and son-in-law Samuel Palmer and, ultimately, the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.