Glory After the Fall: Images of Ruins in 18th- and 19th-Century British Art

Apr. 18, 2015Aug. 10, 2015
Huntington Art Gallery, Works on Paper Room

Possessing a mysterious beauty and a capacity to evoke complex emotions, ruins have fascinated viewers for centuries. They serve as reminders of triumph and achievement while functioning as potent symbols of loss and destruction.

With Rome as its primary focus, this exhibition features the prints, drawings, and watercolors of 18th and 19th-century British artists from The Huntington’s art collections. The popularity of ruins was due in large part to the Grand Tour. It was on this extended sojourn through continental Europe that wealthy Englishmen encountered the physical remains of antiquity. Schooled in the art and literature of ancient Rome, the journey was intended to complement a young aristocrat’s classical studies. Yet, even at home, ruins captivated British audiences. In addition to ancient structures, this exhibition includes images of Gothic ruins in England. From John Ruskin’s sketch of Kenilworth Castle to William Marlow’s rendering of the Colosseum, the idyllic scenes are emblematic of past glories, even as they prompt viewers to contemplate the fleeting nature of man’s accomplishments.