The Romantic movement in art grew out of an increased interest in the sublime and in picturesque notions of nature in the late 18th century. Before that, anything beyond the walls of the estate or garden had been regarded as wild, uncivilized and dangerous; now every educated person wished to travel through empty landscapes and feel the power and sublimity of the natural world. This desire fed into a reaction against industrialization in the early 19th century, and a further reaction against the order and reason implicit in the 18th century Age of Enlightenment (an age which was seen as having led to the French revolution). Artists wanted to portray nature, not as a place of tranquillity, ordered and ruled by man, but as a locus of terrifying and elemental forces which mirrored the passion and tumult of the human spirit. Even in landscapes which appeared serene and welcoming, the artist saw the expression of mood and emotion, reflected from the individual experiencing it.
Terry Watts, Winter afternoon: Lyme Regis
Caspar David Friedrich, Monk on the seashore, 1808-10, Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin
Watts is a contemporary British painter working in the Romantic landscape tradition of, for instance, the German artist Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840).
You may from a distance think that he is a photographer of fashionably lonely and open countryside or coastal areas, but move in closer and you can seen that he is carefully composing and crafting paintings of the living English landscape. And he is not copying them from photos; instead he starts with an actual topographical location, with which he blends elements from other scenes in order to achieve a distanced and more spiritual response. The time of day, the weather, and the viewpoint all become part of the emotional truth of the chosen place.
Terry Watts, Brightening later: Dorset-Hampshire border
Caspar David Friedrich, Evening, 1824, Kunsthalle, Mannheim
Like Friedrich, Watts is attempting, through the contemplation of nature, to convey the meaning and sublimity of the landscape. He specializes in panoramic scenes, often with a low horizon and enhanced perspective (as Van Gogh composed his landscapes), which emphasize the vastness of his skies, and endow the immense piles and vistas of the cloudscapes with a visionary significance.
Caspar David Friedrich, The great enclosure, c.1832, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden
Terry Watts, Rising Tide: the estuary of the Medway, Kent
Watts trained at Camberwell and Hammersmith Colleges of Art, and is a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. He also exhibits at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour, the Royal Society of Marine Artists, the Royal Society of Birmingham Artists, and at provincial galleries throughout Britain. Works by Watts can be found in public, private and corporate collections in Britain, France, the Netherlands and the USA.
Terry Watts, Wire across the field