The return of the British painters to Rome after 1815.
thesisposted on 19.11.2015, 09:16 by Kathleen M. Wells
Fourteen British painters, four of whom were supported by patrons, had taken up residence in Rome by the early 1820s. At least eleven of them went there to paint history. Their belief that Rome could and should remain a centre for British art was given lively expression in 1823 when they, and the British sculptors also in residence, established the British Academy of Arts in Rome (1823-1936). The Royal Academy was asked to support their enterprise, and was thereby drawn into the affairs of the Roman community. By 1823, a leading member of the community, Charles Eastlake, having temporarily laid aside his ambition to paint history, had acquired the first reputation for the colony of painters with his landscape and genre paintings. This last, unexpected, interest was taken up by that colony as a whole. Indeed, by the 1830s it had ceased to be a community of history painters. And, Joseph Severn, Thomas Uwins and Henry Williams had joined Eastlake in winning acclaim for the colony principally by their paintings of Italian life which were sent home to the London exhibitions. The background to the interest in Italian genre among painters and patrons of the 1820 colony can be traced in England and Italy. Artists in Rome defended the taste by claiming, in a carefully thought out case, that the "low" art of genre could have excellencies as great as those ascribed to "high" art. Thus, from the colony of the 1820s came a challenge to the art values of the "Age of Neo-Classicism" in which the artists were living. The history of the colony, which broke up in the early 1830s, is completed by relating the painting careers of its four successful members after that date, and also by giving the later history of the Academy which they and their fellows had founded.