At Arundel, Sussex (1887) by George Vicat ColeMilwaukee Art Museum
Arundel, where George Vicat Cole painted this image, is an English market town in Sussex, a British county about fifty miles southwest of London.
Here, a family harvests their farm’s grain. In the nineteenth century, paintings that presented perfect, quaint images of the countryside were popular in England and America because they offered a welcomed contrast to the dirty, crowded urban reality of modern life.
The golden glow of the fields and the misty hills in the distance lend a peaceful quality to the image—and help explain why George Vicat Cole was one of England’s most popular landscape painters.
The sheep on this farm are not confined to a pen, but rather graze along the road, relaxed and comfortable. Some are even asleep in the tall grass.
Traveling into the distance, out of sight, is a road lined with mature trees that were planted long ago, symbolizing the deep roots of rural England.
Fuel or fencing
The bundles of branches leaning here against an old fence might be intended as fuel for a farmhouse fire or as material to fix the fence posts.
This majestic tree could be interpreted to represent the strength of England, in its sturdy trunk (the country itself) and its spreading branches (the many territories around the globe over which England had political control).
Historians estimate that by the 1880s the British Empire comprised approximately one-quarter of the world’s land surface and total population.
The leaves on the many trees reveal the artist’s concern with detail.
Cole admired the work of a group of artists called the Pre-Raphaelites. Although these artists painted women in allegorical or literary scenes—very different from landscape painting—Cole was inspired by their intense attention to detail.
George Vicat Cole
At Arundel, Sussex, 1887
Oil on canvas
32 1/2 × 52 1/16 in. (82.55 × 132.24 cm)
Layton Art Collection Inc., Gift of J. M. Durand
Photographer credit: John R. Glembin