Planet Online

Deep Roots and Elysian Groves

by Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan

Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan is impressed by the scale and ambition of the MOMA Machynlleth exhibition 'Romanticism in the Welsh Landscape', which brings under one roof indigenous and incomer artists, and work across several centuries - from Richard Wilson and JMW Turner to Iwan Bala and Helen Sear.

This is undoubtedly the largest and most ambitious exhibition organised by MOMA since it was established over twenty years ago, and makes full use of newly opened gallery spaces following the expansion into the adjoining Tanerdy building. The works have been selected by Peter Wakelin from a wide range of sources, some from MOMA’s own permanent collection, others from public and private hands, a herculean task requiring careful diplomacy as well as complex administration.

The theme is equally ambitious, for what is conventionally regarded as the age of Romanticism is only the starting point. In fact the exhibition follows the evolution of landscape painting in and of Wales right up to the present day, something not necessarily evident from a casual glance at the publicity flyers, with their classic Richard Wilson view of the Mawddach valley. Terminology is notoriously tricksy, but I would have liked to see at the (chronological) beginning a more detailed discussion of what Romanticism might mean in the art-historical context, and the factors that drove its development in relation to particular kinds of vision and interpretation of Welsh landscapes. This would have been particularly useful for understanding how more recent generations can be brought under the Romanticising umbrella... or are they reacting against it? Who and what is a Romantic / Neo-Romantic / Romanticising artist?

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