View of Kensington Gardens, London

Artist: John Linnell (British, London 1792–1882 Redhill, Surrey)

Date: 1812

Medium: Watercolor over graphite

Dimensions: Overall: 4 x 5 1/2in. (10.2 x 14cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Purchase, Guy Wildenstein Gift, 2000

Accession Number: 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.