A single drawing from George III’s King's Topographical Collection can be used to illustrate how research and exposure can change perceptions. While it might be assumed that the royal provenance and the national institution context of ‘K.Top’ could be seen as elevating, much of the collection has been largely overlooked, arguably at its roots due to the collection being held by a Library rather than a gallery or museum.
This categorisation has led to paintings being essentially invisible, and when found still perceived as insignificant, one among many in crowded albums which can overwhelm rather than delight. But changing the context can encourage different readings. Recent research led to the identification of the little-known artist of An Internal View of Tintern Abbey, in South Wales, seen by moonlight, Peter Van Lerberghe. This painting was exhibited in 2010 in Chepstow, its authorship acknowledged for the first time in over two hundred years (see Julian Mitchell, The Wye Tour and its artists (Woonton Almeley: Logaston Press, 2010.), p119).
It has subsequently been used as a poster image for both the British Library’s Gothic exhibition and the Tate’s Ruin Lust, where it was displayed alongside a view of same scene by J.M.W Turner and used as the cover-image for the accompanying catalogue. The recent history of this previously completely obscure image from K.Top suggests the ways in which topography, viewed as a rich form of cultural representation rather than simply documentation, can be rediscovered and re-viewed in multiple ways.
See Felicity Myrone, ‘Peter van Lerberghe: Artist, printmaker and ‘capital’ collector’, British Art Journal, 15 (Spring 2015).