Fielding, Anthony Van Dyke Copley (1787-1855)

Fielding, Anthony Van Dyke Copley (1787-1855)
Fielding, Anthony Van Dyke Copley (1787-1855)

Author: Andy Shield

Anthony Van Dyke Copley Fielding was one of the leading watercolourists of his generation. His classically-inspired views of the British countryside celebrate the elements and bring you closer to nature itself.

There’s a sense of openness - an encouragement to breathe it all in. As if you could feel a breeze across an undulant landscape or a forceful gale amid a storm at sea.

Fielding worked across the British Isles, from the Sussex Downs to the mountains of North Wales and the expansive lakes of the Highlands.

Inspired by the father of landscape painting, Richard Wilson, his works carry an idealised beauty and focus less on rustic charm.

The prominent art critic John Ruskin held Fielding in high regard.

“No man has ever given, with the same flashing freedom, the race of a running tide under a stiff breeze, nor caught, with the same grace and precision, the curvature of the breaking wave, arrested or accelerated by the wind.”

Anthony Van Dyke Copley Fielding exhibited 327 works at the Royal Watercolour Society and 17 paintings at the Royal Academy. Today, he’s represented in many public collections including the V&A, British Museum, Tate, Wallace Collection and Berlin National Gallery.

Author: Polly Pyke

Watercolourist Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding was one of the most prolific and esteemed landscape artists of his time. His incredible output of atmospheric and gorgeously rendered scenes of the British countryside remain as examples of the growing popularity of watercolours in the 19th century.

Fielding was first given drawing lessons by his father, Nathan Theodore Fielding (1746-1814). It seems clear that the father had great artistic aspirations for his son. That the name of the great painter Anthony van Dyke (1599-1641) is included in Fielding’s own name makes this more than crystal clear. Indeed, Fielding’s four brothers would also pursue careers in art, although none were as successful as him.

Whilst with his father he began to provide teaching lessons. However, his attention was soon pulled south, towards London, where he himself might be more enlightened.

Upon settling in the capital, Fielding began to receive lessons from the eminent watercolourist John Varley (1778-1842). He would also attend meetings at the house of Doctor Munro (1759–1833), an art collector and patron who was influential in the encouragement of watercolour landscape art.

Indeed, with Varley and Munro as company, Fielding had nestled himself into the heart of the watercolour ‘revolution.’ For too long, watercolours had been castigated as a lesser medium than oil painting. Now, a group of artists were working to redefine and elevate its reputation. Landscape paintings were the primary genre in which they worked. The views they produced were sweeping and atmospheric, full of heart and spirit and artistic skill. Artists such as J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) had set into motion an unstoppable machine of innovative artistic production. Fielding jumped aboard.

The success of his efforts is clear when one looks at his progression through the Old Water-Colour Society, the first institution of its kind established by this group of innovators. In 1810 he was already an associate member, and by 1813 became a full member. He would eventually become president of the society in 1831, a position he would hold until his death. In total, he exhibited 1,748 works upon their walls. He exhibited a further 100 at the British Institution.

These works were abundant in spirit and atmosphere. Fielding was highly praised for his ability to capture the effects of light and the ebbing and flowing of the forces of nature. His works seemed ‘real to the vision,’ art critics would praise, ‘faithful representations’ of the bountiful scenes of the British countryside. Fielding could summon the cataclysmic reckoning of fierce storm clouds over turbulent tides. He could capture the haze of a summer sun as it blanches across a great vista. Detail to the foreground adds depth, adds character. His works seem to collect up the pure, undiluted spirit of nature and place it upon the paper.

Fielding captured scenes from all across Britain. He never travelled abroad and the scant productions of Italian scenes he produced were made from copies. The Sussex Downs and seascapes from the southern coast were particular favourites for Fielding, as were scenes of the River Wye and Chepstow Castle.

Although Fielding worked predominantly in watercolour, he did exhibit a number of oil paintings at the Royal Academy. These were met with much praise, but it was his contribution to the innovative world of watercolour landscapes which cemented his reputation.

At the same time as producing such a great output of works, Fielding continued to teach and instruct others. Amongst his pupils was the renowned art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900). Fielding was a popular teacher who, through his lessons, continued to expand the rising popularity of watercolour painting.

An artist so prolific and well-liked, Fielding was sorely mourned upon his death in 1855. ‘No artist knew better than Mr Fielding how to paint a mile’s breadth or distant scenery,’ the Art Journal would acclaim in its obituary. ‘The truth and delicacy of his paintings ever made his works welcome.’ Indeed, this ‘truth and delicacy’ has also made them key works in the study of the progression of watercolour landscapes. Fielding is an example of a great watercolourist, progressive, passionate.

Today, his works are held in a number of Britain’s largest institutions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum. 


Born in Sowerby, Britain.


Moved to Acton, Middlesex, Britain.

C. 1804

Moved to the Lake District, Britain.


Moved to London, Britain.

Studied under John Varley.


Exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy.


Exhibited frequently at the British Institution.


Became a member of the Royal Watercolour Society. Married Susannah Gisborne.


Won a gold medal at the Paris Salon alongside John Constable and Richard Parkes Bonington.


Became President of the Royal Watercolour Society.


Died in Worthing, United Kingdom.

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