Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Tropical Forest with Cycads c.1850 1850c.

C J McC 

Tropical Forest with Cycads c.1850, C J McC
Oil on canvas
19th Century
18 x 14 inches 48.9 x 38.3 cm
This painting combines the suggestion of atmosphere with critical botanical observation. As a landscape composition it is an enticing glimpse of a - presumably - tropical forest, where ferns begin to form a dense undergrowth amid the dead trees along the path of a stream. The precision with which the ferns and cycads are depicted implies that the painter, if not a botanist himself, is no stranger to botanical illustration.

Equally, the dry technique suggests a familiarity with working in watercolour or gouache, which would be appropriate for studies made in the field that then might serve as preparation for a painting on canvas. The execution reveals a painter of very considerable competence, and the economy of the technique, in which, for example, the sandy foreground is left almost unfinished, deserves particular recognition.

Neither the artist - whose initials are so conspicuous in the bottom right-hand corner - nor the exact subject are presently known, though such is the legibility of each means that it must be only a matter only of time before these two secrets are given up. Stylistically the painting dates itself to around the middle of the nineteenth century, a period when advances in travel opened up great areas of the globe to the professionally and amateurly curious, and when the scientific institutions of Europe and America were sponsoring expeditions to establish a taxonomy for the flora and fauna of Africa, Asia and South America. The present landscape appears steeped in the zeal of this period, defined by its thirst for knowledge.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.