Department of History

British amateur topographical art and landscape in NW Italy 1835-1915

Project summary

This three-year (2016-2019) Leverhulme Project Research Grant was directed by Prof Charles Watkins (Geography UoN), with Ross Balzaretti as Co-I and Dr Pietro Piana as post-doctoral researcher.

Geographers, historians and art historians have largely ignored amateur topographical art as a source of understanding landscape change. 

Using the rich archive of British amateur landscape art for northwest Italy in the long nineteenth century, this project contextualised amateur works through an evaluation of the artists’ intellectual and cultural influences.

Leverhulme project picture


The aim was to transform understanding of topography as a genre. New knowledge of forgotten geographies gained will help to manage existing landscapes. 

The project involved fieldwork in the Aosta valley and on the Italian Riviera leading to the production of an extensive database of artists including Dean Alford, Clarence Bicknell, William Brockedon, Henrietta Fortescue, Alfred Sells and George Tinling, with many hundreds of drawings located. An exhibition of images of the Portofino landscape took place in Portofino in 2018 with co-curation by the Parco di Portofino. 



(2016) (with Pietro Piana and Charles Watkins), ‘Saved from the sordid axe’: representation and understanding of pine trees by English visitors to Italy in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Landscape History 37 (2016), pp. 35-56.

(2012) (with Pietro Piana, Diego Moreno and Charles Watkins), ‘Topographical art and landscape history: Elizabeth Fanshawe (1779-1856) in early nineteenth-century Liguria’, Landscape History 33 (2012), 65-81. 

(2015) Balzaretti, R, Piana, P. and Watkins, C. (2015), ‘Travelling in Italy during Turner’s lifetime’, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, September 2015 (10,400 words): (Tate Britain, online only, Open Access)

Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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