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, this unkempt view of Kensington Gardens is deliberately unidealized. Beneath dense clouds and distant trees, two wooden poles and a shed with a tiled roof punctuate a raw, sloping patch of earth. Just twenty years old, Linnell had recently converted to a nonconformist Protestant sect, acquired a camera obscura, and, influenced by William Paley’s Natural Theology, sought direct proof of God’s creation in landscape. The meticulous representation of nature became a moral imperative. To achieve it Linnell developed a distinctive technique using small touches of pure color that anticipated the work of Samuel Palmer and the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The artist probably added the identifying annotation at the bottom of the sheet at a later date.