A review of the travelling exhibition Truth to Nature: Open-air Painting in Europe 1780-1870, currently at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, contributed by Edoardo Roberti, Head of Department, Old Master Paintings London.
Under the comforting roof of the Fitzwilliam Museum, and among the throng who pondered through the Hockney exhibition, your reviewer was welcomed into the serenity of a beautiful exhibition. True to Nature, a show which celebrates the delight of open-air sketches, is nothing short of sublime.
The wonder and excitement with which artists from all over Europe captured transient moments in nature was obvious in each picture: the majesty of the skies, both calm and ferocious; the elegance of lonely, uprooted trees; the power and tenderness of water.
But above all it is the depiction of light which is the over-riding protagonist, at times subtle, at others overbearing. Titans of the period such as Corot and Constable share the exhibitions walls with lesser-known names to create three rooms packed with atmosphere and obvious admiration.
Of particular note were a selection of cloud studies by the Swiss painter Johann Jacob Frey (1813-1865) (pictured). The artist produced outstanding oil-based outdoor studies of the Roman countryside during the later 1830s after his training in Paris and Munich. His luminous palette could capture all forms of weather, atmosphere and effects with a remarkable personal character that warrants their reproduction here.
A full catalogue of the paintings featured in the Fondation Custodia's leg of the exhibition can be found here.
One of the highlights of the British Art: The Jubilee Auction at Sotheby's London in July 2022 was the sale of John Constable's Cloud Study. This outstanding example of Constable's unique contribution to British art realised a hammer price of £580,000 over its estimate of £100,000 - £150,000.