A Prospect of the upper part of Dove-Dale, 7 July 1743
Thomas Smith of Derby
RA Collection: Art
A minor artist of whom little is known, Thomas Smith 'of Derby' is nonetheless a pivotal figure in the genesis of the English picturesque. His series of 'Eight of the most extraordinary Natural Prospects in the Mountainous Part of Derbyshire and Staffordshire, commonly called the Peak' are the earliest prints to depict features of the English countryside as pure landscape in its own right.
The rugged scenery of the Peak District was already attracting tourists by the late 1730s and it was probably for their benefit that Smith employs numerous motifs from the landscapes of the 17th-century Italian painter Salvador Rosa in this series, albeit with the significant substitution of fashionable sightseers in place of banditti and wild-eyed hermits. Smith gauged his market well and by 1751 had published a total of fifty large prints of English natural scenery, parks and ruins. However he was always careful to maintain a topographical or antiquarian focus to his subjects, and not to depend solely on the aesthetic appeal of his manner of depicting them.
340 mm x 518 mm
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