Sketching among the Ruins By the mid-eighteenth century, the practice of sketching outdoors with oil paint had become popular among landscape artists. Furthermore, a study trip through Europe, often centered on a stay in Italy, had evolved as a customary part of artists’ training.
Italy’s cities and countryside, filled with remnants of ancient monuments, offered artists stimulating subject matter, and the portability of oil sketching facilitated the firsthand study of ruins and their surroundings. While some painters carefully recorded these structures’ textures and colors, as well as how light fell upon them, others invented scenes by reimagining remains of the past or by envisioning the future deterioration of the present. Whether real or fictional, ruins and their surrounding landscape offered poignant juxtapositions—at once testimonies to the majesty of human achievement and to the inevitable triumph of time over our endeavors.
Image: The Roman Theater, Taormina, 1825, Louise-Joséphine Sarazin de Belmont / courtesy of The Morgan Library & Museum