British artist John Wallace Tucker captured scenes of his local landscapes and invoked in them the spirit of Arcadian purity and beauty.
Growing up and working in Exeter, Tucker turned both inland and to the coast to garner inspiration for his paintings. The rural idylls of the west-country scenery become the subject of his brush.
They are painted with a romantic spirit, soft sfumato creating a haze of glorious light which touches the tops of hills bursting with bountiful foliage.
His colour palette is rich and deep allowing him to effectively contrast the lighter touches of sunlight upon the River Exe with the dark shadows where the light does not reach beyond the bow of a looming ship.
By the tastes of his time, Tucker’s style seems a little old-fashioned. His contemporaries such as Constable and Turner had thrown out the more traditional, Arcadian touch Tucker utilises to invoke a more spirited, gritty, and down-to-earth depiction of nature. Perhaps Tucker’s style has something to do with the fact that he received no professional training. His tutoring came only from his father, who was also a painter and a stalwart of the previous generation. It also seems that local artists such as William Traies (1789-1872) made this older style more popular, so perhaps Tucker was taking a leaf from his book.
Despite his enthusiasm, Tucker could not, it seems, pursue painting full-time. Exeter was not a thriving city for any trade in the 19th century. The developments of the industrial revolution had passed it by, and the pool of patrons willing to buy paintings was small. Indeed, those who did exist, when exhibitions of local art were planned, tried to purchase works at a discount price! It therefore seems it was necessary for artists who could not afford, by whatever means, to move elsewhere to pursue their career, to take on another job for a source of income.
Tucker worked first for his father-in-law as an iron and brass founder’s assistant, and then later in life as a commercial agent. These two were not enough, even, for in his final years he was declared bankrupt. Such a shame such a fine artistic hand was not appreciated in his time.
Today, however, many of his works can be found in Exeter’s foremost art gallery, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.
Born in Exeter.
Married Elizabeth Northam.
Died in Exeter.