Even though I have been writing about him for a number of years now, it was not until I bought my house in Wales this summer that I began to realise what an individual take S.G. Boxsius had on the British landscape. I will be the first to admit that A Devon village (below) could easily fit into the generic view of the countryside made famous by the flat but fetching dust-jacket designs of Brian Cook. But then Cook's work is more likely to be a simplified version of the more subtle work you see here.
Boxsius was a Londoner who infrequently depicted the city he grew up in. London from the roof and Kew Bridge are exceptions. But even with Kew Bridge the sense of an outing to Kew isn't far away and what he sometimes did (especially when he visited the West Country) was present postcard views. Nothing exactly wrong with that but the places he visited were shown exactly as an informed visitor would see them. Every time I pass through Criccieth on Cardigan Bay on the train and see the ruined castle above the town, I am reminded of Corfe Castle. It's the neat build-up of buildings that does it, medieval overlaid with Georgian and Victorian and all put together with a stylish, intimate and crisp sense of perspective. They are so well-behaved and good-natured, we hardly notice the way Boxsius carefully takes us in and out of the shadows of a place or by how much these weekend-away views have the art master's visits to the National Gallery behind them.
I have pointed out before that his exquisite Seaside used Georges Seurat's Bathers, Asnieres (acquired by the Gallery in 1926) as a model. I suppose what I am saying is that London isn't as far away as you might think. Many of his prints are architectural compositions and even when he depicted trees, as in the dashing linocut, Twilight, Winchelsea. At the time, Winchelsea was the home of Arthur and Kathleen Rigden Read and I assume that Sylvan and Daisy Boxsius were sometimes visitors because the town appears at least three times in his work but I think Boxsius must also have known the white fencing and orange rooftops from William Giles view of Rothenburg am Tauber made twenty years earlier. Even when he is at his most lyrical, bookishness is not so very far away and modern girls occupy their time with reading. If his holiday prints can look occasional as much as the pure colours, their literary feel makes them something more telling. You just have to try and work out or guess what he had been looking at but look he certainly did.