A Pastoral Landscape with Shepherds and Their Flocks, 1744
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated
15 X 39 1/2 in. (38.1 X 100.3 cm)
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George Lambert is often described as the founder of the English school of landscape painting. Although earlier English artists had painted countryside scenes, he was the first to paint England's country houses and parks as a subject in their own right. He is first mentioned in 1722, by the art historian George Vertue, who described him as a "hopeful Painter in Landskape, aged 22." At this time, Lambert was also under the influence of Gaspard Poussin, the seventeenth-century French landscape painter whose works were immensely popular among eighteenth-century British collectors. Lambert's early works were Italianate classical landscapes with figures, very much in Poussin's manner. In the early 1730s, he began painting country house views, producing works for members of the English landed gentry.
Lambert's aristocratic patrons not only wanted pictures of their own houses and estates; they acquired imaginary pastoral compositions such as this work. These countryside scenes were particularly popular with wealthy gentlemen returning from the Grand Tour of Europe. They wanted views of idyllic, faraway fantasy landscapes to remind them of their travels abroad. The 1740s marked the beginning of the era of the great English landscape garden and parkland, and many of the country houses in which these works were displayed were themselves set in similarly misty, dream-like, and classical surroundings.
Sotheby's, New York, October 3, 1996, lot 15; private collection, U.K.
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