“Presences of Nature: British Landscape 1780-1830,” an exhibition of paintings currently on view at the Yale Center for British Art,[1] is organized on a novel plan. Its curator, Louis Hawes, noting that the experience of nature was the great and original subject of the period in painting, as it was in poetry, has abandoned the usual methods of presenting the British School in terms of masters, mediums, and formal development. In this show great and small, precursors and followers, oils and watercolors all appear together under six headings: Mountain Landscapes, Coastal Scenes, Ruin Landscapes, Rural Landscapes, Landscapes with Laborers, and Townscapes. These were categories of subject matter common at the time the works were painted. An interest in subject matter seems to be shared just now by painters and critics as well as scholars. One effect...


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