Friday, July 11, 2008

Pilgrimage to Canterbury

Thomas Stothard 1755-1834
The Pilgrimage to Canterbury 1806-7
Oil on oak panel support: 318 x 952 mm
Tate Britain, London

No. Not another post on the Anglican vote to allow women bishops. Or the forthcoming Lambeth Conference.

This painting was the cause of the end of the friendship between the artist and William Blake.

Blake claimed that Cromek had commissioned a painting of the Canterbury Pilgrims from him first, but Cromek had not liked the design and so took the commission to Stothard. Blake also claimed that the artist had in effect copied the design of the painting from his earlier design.

It is his best known painting. The engraving from which, begun by Luigi and continued by Niccolo Schiavonetti and finished by James Heath, was immensely popular.

However according to the Allinson Gallery website it would appear that it was Blake who may have copied the idea from Stothard.

In any event, the significance of the painting by Stothard is ably summed up thus:

"Stothard was the first modern painter to explore he pictorial potential of Chaucer's vivid descriptions of the pilgrims and the procession in his Canterbury Tales.

He began by making extensive researches into written and pictorial records of Chaucer's time in order to re-create an accurate view of the pilgrims. Stothard based the idea of his composition upon the famous frieze of ancient Greek sculptures, now known as the Elgin Marbles, from the Parthenon in Athens (although at this date his composition would have been based upon engravings of the marbles).

The final result was the impressive composition."