John McKesson Camp II, with contributions by Ian Jenkins, Fani-Maria Tsigakou, Kim Sloan In Search of Greece: Catalogue of an Exhibit of Drawings at the British Museum by Edward Dodwell and Simone Pomardi from the Collection of the Packard Humanities Insititute Packard Humanities Institute, Los Altos, CA, 2013, 205pp, col, 25 [pounds sterling] [exhibition 'In Search of Classical Greece Travel drawings of Edward Dodwell and Simone Pomardi, 1805-1806', British Museum, 7 February-28 April]
Neo-classical topography occupies a distinctive place in the canon of watercolour viewmaking, and belongs to a distinct moment in the development of European art, Its exponents intersect with the vedutisti of the Grand Tour, with archaeological and military record-making, with the grander aspirations of the Neo-classical architects and those painters who decorated their buildings. It was a branch of the very English vogue for watercolour that attained such significant heights in the later 18th century, and yet was an international phenomenon, with accomplished exponents in France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and even America.
There is a style of drawing and colouring that we can describe without much distortion as typical of this varied body of work: a style perhaps most characteristically exemplified in the art of the German Jakob Philipp Hackert, who worked extensively in Italy. It is suave, elegant, precise, always conscious of a decorative intent even when information is a central factor. The Swiss Louis-Rodolphe Ducroz pioneered powerfully expressive watercolour techniques in bringing out the grandeur of Roman ruins, following the lead given by Piranesi in his dramatic etchings. Some exponents were taken up by English tourists, as was Carlo Labruzzi, who accompanied Richard Colt Hoare on some of his travels and brought a refreshing freedom of handling to the genre; some, like Robert Adam, were architects, mainly concerned with accuracy in the depiction of ancient structures. Some again, like William Pars, were part of a team in which architect and historian asked the topographer to supply settings for their observations and sometimes to make careful drawings of particular details: Pars not only produced views featuring classical ruins but also made rigorous transcripts of sculptures--the Parthenon frieze and the Philopappus Monument outside Athens, for instance.
Pars and his companions, Nicholas Revett and Richard Chandler, were sent to Asia Minor and Greece by the Dilettante Society which had shortly before supported the architect James Stuart, soon to be known as Athenian' Stuart. in his project to record the antiquities of Athens. Whereas Labruzzi made views largely for illustration and...