Cultured Wednesday: Jacob More

Jacob More’s special quality was a strong sense of formal design that he combined with nature observations. 

Jacob More was a Scottish landscape painter who started out painting stage scenery at the New Theater in his hometown Edinburgh.  It appears as though his special quality was a strong sense of formal design, maybe acquired while he worked for the theater, that he combined with nature observations.

the eruption of mt vesuvius
The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius

Jacob More was born in Edinburg in 1740, but lived most of his adult life in Italy, from around 1773 until his death on 1 October 1793.  While he was living in Rome and only 4 years before his death, a then relatively young Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited him, acclaiming More’s paintings as being ‘admirably thought out’.  How can a painter to whom formal style matters and who manages to incorporate it into his landscape compositions fail to please Goethe, himself very keenly aware of formal design, and how nature keeps falling back on it?

What Goethe was looking for in his own nature studies, and suggested others should look for rather than amassing disconnected data about the natural world, were the ideas, maybe even archetypes behind specific natural phenomena like the spiral tendency, for example.  In order to find such natural and lawful ideas in nature, one needed to immerse oneself in a living interaction with a natural phenomenon, with all available senses.  Looking at Jacob More’s paintings might very well have told Goethe that here, he had met a kindred soul.

If you are interested in Goethe’s approach, the Wiki entry about Goethian Science might provide a quick glance into his ideas, and what came of them.  When I read Goethe’s nature studies back in the day, I found them fascinating and rewarding.

jacob more

Back to Jacob More:  His most famous painting is probably The Falls of Clyde (Corra Linn) from his Clyde Falls series that was exhibited in London in 1771, and which the founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Arts, Sir Joshua Reynolds, himself a portrait painter, bought in that same year:

Cora Lynn
Corra Linn, from the Clyde Falls series (around 1771)

One last painting I would like to share today.  It shows Roman Ruins, and appears to be a sketch more than a painting.  Can you see the formal design spoken of above?

Roman Ruins by Jacob More circa 1740-1793
Roman Ruins

Featured is a slightly cropped version of More’s “The Eruption of Etna”.

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