by Tim Barringer and Oliver Fairclough. American Federation of Art; Giles, January 2015. 248 p. ill. ISBN 9781907804342 (cl.), $59.95.
Reviewed May 2015
Janice Childers, Senior Editor, International Bibliography of Art | ARTbibliographies Modern, ProQuest, Janice.email@example.com
Pastures Green & Dark Satanic Mills: The British Passion for Landscape draws on works from the collection of the Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales to trace the significance of British landscape from Romanticism into the 21st century across changing genres, media, and perspectives. The authors of this well-laid-out exhibition catalog do an admirable job of situating the persistent allure of British landscape within solid historical context.
The catalog is divided into three main sections: two essays by the co-curators of the exhibition, followed by a section of plates. Tim Barringer's expansive essay highlights the intersection of pastoral landscape with machine-driven industrial progress. Consistently referring the reader to catalog plates and images within the essay, Barringer lays out a sweeping history of the enduring attraction of Britain's landscapes, the influence of and on Continental artists, changes in the natural and social environment ushered in by industry, and the lasting legacy of two world wars. Landscape remains central even when it is cut through by locomotives, blackened by factories, dominated by ruins, or pitted by battle.
The second essay, by Oliver Fairclough, is a primer on the history and culture of Wales and the origin of the National Museum. Welsh artist Richard Wilson features prominently as a pioneer of British landscape art and an influence on J. M. W. Turner, John Constable, and their contemporaries, intent on capturing the area's rugged topography, picturesque ruins, and industrial sites in their work. A discussion of modern photography, installation works, and landscape manipulation wraps up the essay.
Eighty-eight high-quality color plates form the core of the catalog, each with a descriptive essay authored by National Museum Wales staff on the facing page. Entries provide description and analysis, historical context, and brief artist biographies. Here, curatorial intent is clarified. Works are gathered around themes which explore the Arcadian ideal, the legacies of Turner and Monet, Naturalism, and Modernity.
Finally, a large notes section, a selective bibliography, and an index provide ample opportunity for the reader to delve further into the subjects and artists discussed.
This catalog would be a good addition to academic libraries in support of art history, British studies, and cultural history, or to research libraries attached to museums with strong landscape collections.
Despite careful attention to quality facsimiles, layout, and a sewn binding, the endpapers crack at the hinge almost immediately upon opening, making the catalog a likely candidate for rebinding.