Art history

John Linnell, 1811-12, Tate Britan. Photo © Tate CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)

John Linnell’s Kensington Gravel Pits: A Landscape from the Edge of London MA Thesis, 2016, Courtauld Institute of Art, London

John Linnell’s oil painting Gravel Pits, exhibited at the British Institution in 1813 (fig. 1) describes an open gravel pit on once verdant land, a yawning breach that narrows as it moves horizontally across the surface of the 2.3-by-3.7-foot canvas, to reveal a cross section of the Earth’s strata. The excavated gravel and sand rise in piles on the near bank. Scattered near the pit’s edge, five men, two adolescents and a woman are at work. On the far side of the pit, a terraced road cuts into the slope, and farther up awaits a wagon hitched with horses, ready to haul away a load of gravel. The pit and the piles of individually delineated pieces of gravel shimmer in the sunlight.

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