The Reverend Robert Woodley-Brown was one of those early English landscape painters whose style is so distinct that it is nearly impossible not to be able to instantly recognize his work. This one is no exception.
His paintings remind me of the old movie, “Shangri-La,” where the travelers found a magical place while crossing the Himalayas. The Reverend’s paintings have that kind of magic in them; perhaps it’s his rich color palette or his slightly provincial, yet very Georgian style. It seems there are always pretty skies along with mountains in the background and rivers or lochs somewhere in his compositions. In any case, the result is still pure magic.
This is an accomplished yet charming painting by an artist thought to be actively painting from around 1810 to 1850 and specializing in the stunning scenery of England’s Lake District. Unfortunately, little is known about Reverend Brown’s personal life, and he did not sign most of his works. I have handled several of his paintings in the course of my career and he always has been among my favorite artists.
This gorgeous landscape delivers all of Reverend Woodley-Brown’s quintessential style, color and romantic feel for which his work is admired. His figures, though seemingly entranced themselves by the beauty around them, are there primarily to give scale and a focal point. The trees are in deep, rich greens, while the pink-tinged sky further show off his talent in the realm of color. We are immediately pulled into the artist’s world. The serenity of the scene, as in all of his works, is overwhelming, making the viewer a willing partner in the artist’s interpretation of it. The very Woodley-Brownish romantic folly only adds to the scene’s charm.
In the world of Reverend Brown, his cottages often became follies shrouded in greenery. The background mountains rose well above the water, while his idyllic skies were beautifully rendered in pinks, lavenders, blues and grays. The romantic elements were lovingly entwined to create a perfect landscape that existed more in his imagination that most likely in reality. In this sense, this landscape is very much a quintessential Woodley Brown landscape. He carefully and consistently shows us his imagination and talent. The trees are painted in great detail, with light shimmering on the leaves. The stone folly is lit up by the last rays of the sun. His figures are nonessential; I believe he puts them in mainly for scale and to allow one to think that his landscapes are real and habitable. His beautiful color choices always harmonize well, and provide the dreamlike impression that he was so fond of painting.
This piece is housed in its original Victorian elaborate gesso and gilded frame. The swept frame is heavily embossed with flowers, fruit, shells and leave that curl all around the borders. It is as fanciful as the painting within it.
The painting is in excellent condition. It appears to have been given a clean perhaps 20 years ago. The frame has some very minor losses here and there, but it has several inches of its gesso work missing on the top portion behind the wide scalloped molding. This is a fortunate place for this gesso to be missing as it is not seen from the front.
It measures 24 inches wide by 19-7/8 inches high, including the frame.