Painting as Cinema

louth[“The Defeat of the Spanish Armada” by Philip James De Loutherbourg. Source: Wikimedia Commons (adapted)]
Philip James de Loutherbourg is a fascinating artist. Born in France, he became successful very young, but moved quite suddenly to London where he reinvented himself as a theatre scenographer. He pretty much invented what we would today call special effects. He even invented a kind of proto-cinema presentation system. He continued to paint, and this depiction of a slice of English history is a good example of his highly cinematic style: lurid colours* , dramatic composition, intense sublime.
Loutherbourg was a keen alchemist and follower of occult practices. For a couple of years he even quit art and became a faith healer. That didn’t really work out.

(I photoshopped this image a bit to show you how it actually looks not the washed out photo file that’s available online. Loutherbourg had a complex colour system informed by alchemy and his occult researches, but he favoured a very – by the standards of the time – lurid palette. Which works perfectly from a VFX point of view)

Unfortunately you wont get a chance to see this painting in person as it’s not on display. Almost none of his paintings are on show in the UK which is a farce.

Amazing, underrated and visually stunning, Loutherbourg’s paintings all deserve another look:

cinematic image of early industrialism: factories at Coalbrookdale

A Sea Battle with Pirates [Wikimedia Commons]
The Great Fire of London 1666 [Wikimedia Commons]

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