More than forty years ago, John and Charlotte Gere, both distinguished art historians, pioneered the collecting of small-scale landscape oil sketches created by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century artists working out of doors in nature. Such paintings, created quickly to capture subtle atmospheric effects and the fleeting play of light, played a vital role in the visual training of generations of European artists. The pictures were not conceived of as finished works of art, were rarely if ever exhibited during the artists’ lifetimes, and were often kept in the studio for later consultation.
This beautiful book presents the Gere collection, which today numbers some 70 works. These include paintings by Valenciennes, Frederic, Lord Leighton, and Thomas Jones, as well as by less well-known artists such as Gilles Closson and Simon Denis. While the majority were painted in Italy, there are also works by British, French, Italian, German, Belgian, and Scandinavian artists. These intimate and compelling documents of artists at work form what is perhaps the most comprehensive private collection of its kind.
Christopher Riopelle is curator of nineteenth-century painting at the National Gallery, London. Xavier Bray is assistant curator at the National Gallery.