Bromley Hill, Kent, England
early 19th century
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Amelia Long has depicted a distant view of St Pauls and the City of London from the gardens of Bromley Hill House in Kent. The artist’s husband, Charles Long, who was both a Member of Parliament and a connoisseur of the arts, bought Bromley Hill House in 1801. Together they designed the celebrated Italianate grounds, which by 1809 had two picturesque walks. They both delighted in the natural beauty of Bromley Hill, and the prospect of the City of London provided a constant reminder of the capital at the time that it was becoming a global trading, financial and political centre. The City was also the source of her husband’s fortune that had permitted him to purchase the estate as their home and then allowed them both to remodel the landscape according to the tenets of picturesque garden design. The rural figure walking behind a horse-drawn cart along a country path, and the flock of sheep grazing on the land and sheltering beneath a clump of trees, which Long included in her image, reinforced this link between the ownership of property and the aesthetic of the picturesque.Long made many sketches and finished drawings of Bromley Hill in pencil, charcoal and watercolour. View from the Gardens is an example of her broad topographical style and shows the influence of her teacher, Thomas Girtin; Long was allegedly Girtin’s favourite pupil. Girtin often taught his pupils to sketch out of doors, and the fluency of execution in this work suggests that the artist may have worked on the spot rather than indoors. Long is now considered one of the most important amateur artists working in the nineteenth century, and is one of only three women artists represented in this exhibition. The writer and watercolour artist, George Cumberland (1754-1848) claimed her work was 'equal to any artist of the present day ... even when put in competition with practical professors'.