Henry Herbert La Thangue

Painting by Henry Herbert La Thangue

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Painting by Henry Herbert La Thangue

Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859-1929): A Critique of Naturalism and Rural Realism

Henry Herbert La Thangue, a British painter associated with the Newlyn School, left an indelible mark on the late 19th and early 20th-century art scene. Known for his commitment to naturalism and rural realism, La Thangue’s paintings are a testament to his keen observation of life in the English countryside.

Painting by Henry Herbert La Thangue
Painting by Henry Herbert La Thangue


  1. Naturalistic Prowess: La Thangue’s naturalistic approach is evident in his ability to capture the essence of rural life. His paintings depict scenes of agricultural labor, often portraying peasants and farmworkers engaged in their daily tasks. The meticulous attention to detail in rendering landscapes, figures, and the play of light showcases his dedication to capturing the authenticity of the rural experience.
  2. Humanizing the Laborer: One of La Thangue’s strengths lies in his humanization of laborers. Rather than idealizing or romanticizing their work, he presents a sincere and dignified portrayal of the challenges and triumphs of rural life. His subjects are not mere figures in a landscape but individuals with character, resilience, and a connection to the land.
    Painting by Henry Herbert La Thangue
    Painting by Henry Herbert La Thangue
  3. Masterful Technique: La Thangue’s technical skill is apparent in his mastery of color, light, and composition. His landscapes are infused with a natural luminosity, and he adeptly captures the effects of changing seasons on the countryside. The precision in his brushwork adds depth to his scenes, creating a palpable sense of atmosphere.
  4. Realism with a Touch of Impressionism: While rooted in realism, La Thangue’s work also reflects influences of Impressionism. His loose brushstrokes and atmospheric effects contribute to a sense of immediacy, allowing viewers to feel the energy and movement within the scenes. This amalgamation of realism and impressionism enhances the emotional impact of his paintings.
  5. Capturing Light and Atmosphere: La Thangue’s ability to capture the nuances of natural light and atmospheric conditions is a hallmark of his work. Whether depicting the soft glow of dawn on a harvested field or the warm hues of a setting sun, he skillfully conveys the ever-changing play of light that defines the rural landscape.
  6. Legacy and Recognition: Despite facing challenges from evolving artistic trends, La Thangue’s contributions to naturalism and rural realism have gained recognition. His works are displayed in various collections, and his dedication to portraying the everyday life of rural communities has secured his place in the annals of British art history.
Painting by Henry Herbert La Thangue
Painting by Henry Herbert La Thangue

In conclusion, Henry Herbert La Thangue’s paintings stand as a testament to his commitment to naturalism and rural realism. His ability to humanize the laborer, masterful technique, and nuanced portrayal of light and atmosphere contribute to the enduring appeal of his works, making him a noteworthy figure in the evolution of late 19th-century British art.




British painter Henry Herbert La Thangue [1859-1929] was noted for his strong convictions and forceful personality. In 1886, having completed his studies in Paris, he was the instigator of an abortive movement to reform the Royal Academy.

Though he did not attend the meetings held by his contemporaries which led to the foundation of the New English Art Club (NEAC), La Thangue was arguably its most controversial exhibitor. La Thangue lived for a time in Norfolk, painting scenes of Fenland life in a characteristic square-brush manner. He continued to produce large social realist pictures which courted controversy.

In the following years La Thangue’s work showed a growing interest in French Impressionism. He travelled to Provence and Liguria, and scenes from these travels gradually infiltrated his work as he increasingly regretted the decline of village life in England.

Just before the outbreak of World War I he staged a one-man exhibition at the Leicester Galleries, where he showed a wide selection of landscapes from southern Europe. The exhibition was a critical success and was lavishly praised in The New Age (7 May 1914) by Walter Sickert, who found La Thangue’s use of the language of painting original.

After the war, La Thangue returned to Liguria, and during the 1920s his entire production was given over to scenes of orange groves and gardens. He died in a state of depression at the news that some of his paintings had been destroyed in a shipwreck off the coast of New Zealand. via: Tate 

Henry Herbert La Thangue | 1859–1929 | Nationality: British (b Croydon, Surrey [now in Greater London], 19 Jan. 1859; d London, 21 Dec. 1929). British painter.

He had his main training at the Royal Academy in London and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1887 he described the Academy as ‘the diseased root from which other evils grow’, and he was one of the leading figures in founding the New English Art Club in opposition to it and in introducing the ideals of French plein-air painting to Britain.

He lived in the countryside (first in Norfolk, then in Sussex), and Clausen wrote of him: ‘Sunlight was the thing that attracted him: this and some simple motive of rural occupation, enhanced by a picturesque surround.’ From about 1898 he turned to peasant scenes set in Provence or Italy, places where he often stayed. 

As the countryside changed, his work became increasingly nostalgic, as he hankered after what Munnings called a ‘quiet old world village where he could live and find real country models’. via BBC