Essence of Nature

This is a historic exhibition. It is no longer available to visit and this page is only retained as a record of the previous event. For current and future exhibitions, visit our What's On page.

Pre-Raphaelites to British Impressionists

A young girl stood in a field in blue clothes carrying a jar


Until 14 October 2023 (historic exhibition)


This significant exhibition traces radically different approaches to depicting the natural world, starting with the Pre-Raphaelites’ ideal of ‘truth to nature’, represented by such artists as William Holman Hunt, John Ruskin, William Dyce, John Brett and Anna Blunden. 

Rustic Naturalist painters, including George Clausen, Henry La Thangue, Edward Stott, and Isa Jobling, also painted on the spot. However, they turned away from hyper-real detail, aiming to capture the character and atmosphere of rural working landscapes. Light and colour characterise British Impressionist pictures by artists such as Wynford Dewhurst, Henry Scott Tuke, Ethel Walker and Philip Steer. This group of pictures also includes outstanding British Impressionist compositions by George Clausen and Henry La Thangue. Sketching in front of their subjects, they produced beautiful pictures of sunny hillsides, orchards and gardens, balancing scenes of relaxation with working farmland. Newlyn artists similarly took their easels to beaches and sunny uplands, and the exhibition includes lovely scenes by Laura Knight, Samuel John Lamorna Birch, and Elizabeth Forbes. 

The exhibition features many loans as well as pictures from the Laing’s extensive collection.  

Image credits:

Cover image: Peasant Girl Carrying a Jar, Quimperlé, 1882, George Clausen (1852-1944). Courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum, London   

Homepage image: Picking Bluebells c.1920-1936 by George Henry (1858–1943), William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest