Thomas Hornor, Spirit of the Vale of Neath

National Museums & Galleries of Wales

Date: Early 19th century
Technique: Unknown

Thomas Hornor (1785-1844) was a London landscape gardener who invented a device which he claimed transposed an accurate representation of landscape onto paper. He advertised his invention, most probably a camera obscura, in The Cambrian in 1814, offering his sevices to the owners of large estates. As a result he obtained several commissions, and between 1816 and 1820 produced a series of sumptous leather bound albums of about twenty watercolours interleaved with descriptions of scenes in south Wales. This image by Hornor are taken from one of these albums entitled "Illustrations of the Vale of Neath with the scenery of Rheola and part of the adjoining country". As well as describing the places, the narrative in the album also incorporates some of Hornor's personal thoughts, which create a personal diary of his tour. When bound in the original album this flap was overlaying another similar work and had to be lifted to reveal the fantastical scene in the clouds.
Text by: Department of Art, National Museums & Galleries of Wales


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