William Vaughan, 1 May 1980
For over fifty years the diary of Joseph Farington – topographer, academician and formidable art politician – has been recognised as an invaluable source of information about English artists of the Romantic period. Running from 1793, when the compiler was 46, to his death 28 years later, it covers one of the most exciting times in the history of British painting. The two great landscapists Turner and Constable were developing their mature styles, the suave portraitist Lawrence and the startling fantasist Fuseli were at the height of their powers, and that embarrassing outsider William Blake was issuing book after book of illuminated prophecy. Farington himself was not a major participant in this rich flowering: his meticulous, straight-laced art belongs more to an earlier age. But he was a great observer.