Cornelius Varley (British, 1781–1873)
Watercolor over graphite
6 7/16 x 14 3/8 in. (16.4 x 36.5 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1973 (1973.83)
Cornelius Varley (brother of the better-known watercolor teacher John Varley, whose distinguished pupils included John Linnell, David Cox, and William Turner of Oxford) took a bold approach to sketching in the landscape. Whereas earlier generations of British painters had sought topographical accuracy above all else, Varley privileged color, emotion, atmosphere, and spontaneity. His resulting attempts to capture fleeting moments out-of-doors have an appealing, proto-modern abstraction. The present view, presumably made during a trip to Wales in 1802, records a sunrise using a few well-placed strokes of watercolor. Regrettably, it would have few successors: by the end of that decade, Varley would redirect his passion for observation to the invention and improvement of optical instruments.