John Arthur Strutt, English traveller, painter, writer and engraver, born in Chelmsford, Essex, in 1819, was the son of the landscape painter Jacob George Strutt. When he arrived in Italy with his father in 1831, he made the fundamental and traditional stage of the grand tour a real artistic and biographical change, as he decided to settle in Rome for the rest of his life.
It was in the papal city that John Arthur Strutt achieved success, especially with foreign collectors and art dealers, through a painting that fully interpreted the picturesque and poetic values of Rome and the surrounding countryside. Oils, watercolours and engravings are part of his production, which lasted until the 1980s and included not only works executed in Rome, but also in southern Italy, a place that made his fortune as a travelling artist.
An English painter in Italy: the picturesque from the Roman countryside to Calabria
In 1838, together with his friend and English writer William Jackson, he made an “on the road” journey between Calabria and Sicily. Letters, stories and impressions of this journey were published in the collection A pedestrian tour in Calabria and Sicily, which was a great success in London during the 1840s. A work dedicated to the observation and study of the people of the south, their traditions and customs, it also offers incursions into the world of brigandage, art and the southern landscape.
From Sicily to Salerno to the excavations of Paestum to the Rome countryside, the English artist paints a picturesque portrait of Italy, through a vivid painting of intense colour and impeccable drawing that reveals itself to be profoundly akin to that of the other foreign artists in Rome in the second half of the 19th century.
Close to Charles Coleman, he brings back all the suggestions of the Roman countryside, even the more strictly anecdotal aspects taken from the everyday scenes observed in the villages along the Appian Way or the Via Casilina, such as Ceprano and Frosinone, among the roads most represented in John Arthur Strutt’s vedutistic production.
Tate Britain has the 1839 oil on paper An Italian Cart, painted in his studio in Via del Babbuino 52, which he shared with his father. Shortly afterwards, he moved to Via della Mercede, a studio where he stayed for many years and which was frequented by foreign collectors eager to take home a picturesque reminder of Italian customs and landscapes.
In 1881, Strutt was appointed honorary inspector of the antiquities of Lanuvio as an archaeologist. Primarily concerned with the decipherment and translation of Latin inscriptions, he then published a series of studies in the periodical Notizie degli scavi di antichità della Reale Accademia dei Lincei. He moved to Via della Croce and remained there until his death in 1888.