Tag Archives: Charles Clarke

Charles Clarke (c. 1760—1840)

William Oram‘s posthumous book, Precepts and Observations on the Art of Colouring in Landscape Painting, was published in 1810 by Charles Clarke. Who was he, and why did he wait so long to publish Oram’s Precepts and Observations?

Clarke’s background is obscure, not least because his family was (mostly) Catholic and so do not figure well in eighteenth-century English parish records. His DNB profile suggests he was “probably born in Rochester, Kent” on the strength of some antiquarian articles he published in the Gentleman’s Magazine under the pseudonym of Indagator Roffensis (native of Rochester). However, we have no certain details. He first appears in the records when he was appointed Clerk of the Ordnance office at Chatham in 1783. He was then posted to Gravesend in 1790, and to Guernsey in 1800. Rather unusually, he retired in 1807 at the age of about 47, on a nice pension of £200 p.a. He then lived on until 1840, when he was about 80.

His series of antiquarian articles, mostly on churches, span the early period from 1783 to 1794. His antiquarian papers brought him to the attention, and friendship, of Rev. Samuel Denne, himself a keen antiquarian. A number of Denne’s letters were published by Nichols in Illustrations of Literature, and in one of these letters, Denne says of Clarke that “he is, I know, a valetudinarian, and not very willing to pass an hour or two in a cold damp place, and such is a country church in a winter month” (vol. 6, 622) and later, “at times I have discovered a degree of backwardness in him that may be, however, partly owing to occasional bodily infirmities, he being, as I suspect, of what is termed the nervous class” (662). Perhaps his early retirement from the Ordnance Office was due to ill-health. Continue reading

Precepts and Observations

William Oram wrote one book, the posthumously-published Precepts and Observations on the Art of Colouring in Landscape Painting. The book was prepared and edited by Charles Clarke from Oram’s original manuscripts notes, and published in 1810. It appears that the notes were mostly compiled in the 1750s and the manuscripts was fairly complete – there are certainly places where Oram may have intended a fuller treatment, but the core chapters are well worked out.

 

PRECEPTS AND OBSERVATIONS

 

ON

 

THE ART OF COLOURING

 

IN

 

LANDSCAPE PAINTING,

 

BY THE LATE WILLIAM ORAM, ESQ.

 

O.F HIS MAJESTY’S BOARD OF WORKS.

 


 

Quid si Naturre fas explorare sagaci

Mente vias. Vanier. Prr.ed. Rust. l. xi.

 


 

Arranged from the Author’s original MS. and published

by CHARLES CLARKE, Esq. F. S. A.

 


 

l.ondon :

 

PR I NTED FOR WHITE AND COCHRANE, HORACE’s HEAD, FLEET STREET;

 

BY RICHARD TAYLOR AND CO, SHOE LANE,

 

M.DCCC.X

 

The text stays close to the topic of the title. It is principally concerned with the choices and application of colour in painting landscapes, especially the handling of skies and trees. Oram opens with a couple of short chapters giving theoretical background to why the color of sky varies around the horizon and from horizon to zenith at different times of day, and the changing colors and details of trees at different distances from the observer. These early chapters are a little perfunctory and were possibly something he might have revisited before publication. In Chapter 5 he really gets going, with the treatment of skies and how to lay in the colors of skies and clouds for different types of light. The book is a technical manual of the application of oils. Here is a sample paragraph:

Again, for a sky with a warmer horizon, representing a time nearer the evening than the former:– Let the horizon be made with light red and white, and so growing into a bluish colour, with a small mixture of Indian red in that tint between the light red horizon and the bluest part of the sky. The clouds upon the horizon should be made up with blue and white, with lake only in their shades, and terra di sienna and white with a little light ochre in their lights.

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