Philip James de Loutherbourg

Philip James de Loutherbourg RA (31 October 1740 – 11 March 1812), whose name is sometimes given in the French form of Philippe-Jacques, the German form of Philipp Jakob, or with the English-language epithet of the Younger, was a Franco-British painter who became known for his large naval works, his elaborate set designs for London theatres, and his invention of a mechanical theatre called the "Eidophusikon". He also had an interest in faith-healing and the occult and was a companion of the confidence-trickster Cagliostro.[1]

Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg
Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg (Self-portrait)
Loutherbourg Landscape with cows
Landscape with cows, Wilanów Palace, Warsaw

Early life

Loutherbourg was born in Strasbourg in 1740, the son of an expatriate Polish miniature painter.[1] Intended for the Lutheran ministry, he was educated at the University of Strasbourg.[2]


Rejecting a religious calling, Loutherbourg decided to become a painter, and in 1755 placed himself under Charles-André van Loo in Paris and later under Francesco Giuseppe Casanova. His talent developed rapidly, and he became a figure in the fashionable society of the day. In 1767 he was elected to the French Academy, although below the age required by the rules of the institution, and painted landscapes, sea storms, and battles, all of which work had a celebrity above those of the specialists then working in Paris. He made his debut with the exhibition of twelve pictures, including Storm at Sunset, Night, and Morning after Rain.[2]

Loutherbourg-Spanish Armada
Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 1588-08-08 by Philip James de Loutherbourg, painted 1796
Philipp Jakob Loutherbourg d. J. 003
An avalanche, painted 1803


Loutherbourg then travelled through Switzerland, Germany and Italy, distinguishing himself as much by his mechanical inventions as by his painting. One of these, showing new effects produced in a model theatre, was the wonder of the day, with its use of lights behind canvas representing the moon and stars, and the illusory appearance of running water produced by clear blue sheets of metal and gauze, with loose threads of silver.[2]



In 1771 he settled in London, where David Garrick paid him £500 a year to design scenery and costumes and oversee the stage machinery at the Drury Lane Theatre.[3] His stage effects attracted the admiration not just of the general public, but also of artists, including Joshua Reynolds. He devised scenic effects in which, for instance, green trees gradually became russet and the moon rose and lit the edges of passing clouds:[2] illusions achieved through the use of coloured lantern-slides and the ingenious lighting of transparencies.[4] He continued to work at the theatre until 1785.[3]

He achieved an even greater success with an entertainment called the Eidophusikon, meaning "image of nature". This was a miniature mechanical theatre measuring six by eight feet, and described as displaying "Various Imitations of Natural Phenomena, represented by Moving Pictures". It was presented at Loutherbourg's home from March 1781 in an auditorium seating about 130 people. He used Argand lamps to light the stage and stained glass to change colours.

At Christmas, 1781, Loutherbourg mounted a spectacle at a party in the Egyptian Hall at Fonthill for William Beckford, promising (according to Beckford) to "present a mysterious something that the eye has not seen or heart of man conceived".[4] Following this he attempted rather more fantasical subjects for the Eidophusikon, presenting a scene from Paradise Lost with "Satan arraying his troops on the banks of the Fiery Lake, and the rising of the Palace of Pandemonium".[4] The Eidophusikon soon closed, however, as the income did not cover the costs and the audience demanded new productions faster than Loutherbourg could create them. He has been called the inventor of the panorama but, although it first appeared about the same time as the Eidophusikon, the first panorama was painted and exhibited by the Scottish painter Robert Barker.


Despite these other projects, Loutherbourg still found time for painting. Lord Howe's action, or the Glorious First of June (exhibited 1795) and other large naval pictures were commissioned to commemorate British naval victories, many of them ending up soon afterwards in the Greenwich Hospital Gallery (in whose successor, the National Maritime Museum, they still remain). His finest work was the Destruction of the Armada. He also painted the Great Fire of London and several historical works, including the Attack of the Combined Armies on Valenciennes (1793).[2] He was interested in the industrial revolution and his 1801 painting Coalbrookdale by Night shows iron foundries at work.

Seven of his paintings, including Lodore Waterfall and Skating in Hyde Park, are in the Government Art Collection.[5]

He was made a member of the Royal Academy in 1781.


Philippe-Jacques Loutherbourg - Musée des Bx-Arts Strasbourg-Troupeau
Paysage avec animaux, 1767

Two sets of drawings by de Loutherbourg were published, reproduced in aquatint, under the title Picturesque English Scenery in 1801 and 1805. He also contributed illustrations to a bible published by Thomas Macklin in 1800.[3] After his death Cadell and Davies published a volume of the apocrypha. All 110 of his drawings for the vignettes (but not the apocrypha) are pasted in the Bowyer Bible in Bolton Museum.

Esoteric interests

In 1789 Loutherbourg temporarily gave up painting, in order to pursue an interest in alchemy and the supernatural.[3] He met Alessandro di Cagliostro, who instructed him in the occult.[3] He travelled about with Cagliostro, leaving him, however, before his condemnation to death.[2] He and his wife also took up faith-healing. A pamphlet called A List of a Few Cures performed by Mr and Mrs De Loutherbourg, of Hammersmith Terrace, without Medicine was published in 1789. Written by a follower named Mary Pratt, it claimed that the Loutherbourgs had cured two thousand people between Christmas 1788 and the following July, "having been made proper recipients to receive divine manuductions".[6]


Loutherbourg died in Chiswick in 1812.

There are paintings by him in the collections of several British institutions including Leicester, Farnham and Derby Art Gallery.[7]

Loutherbourg was buried in Chiswick Old Cemetery, adjoining the graveyard of St Nicholas Church, Chiswick. Buried nearby are the artists William Hogarth and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

Further reading

  • Joppier, Rudiger (1973). Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg, R.A., 1740-1812. London: Greater London Council.
  • Dobson, Austin. At Prior Park and Other Papers. London: Humphrey Milford Oxford University Press, 1923. Print.


  1. ^ a b public domain Baynes, T.S., ed. (1875–1889). "Philip James de Loutherbourg". Encyclopædia Britannica (9th ed.). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  2. ^ a b c d e f  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "De Loutherbourg, Philip James" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 973.
  3. ^ a b c d e Lister, Raymond (1989). British Romantic Painting. Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ a b c McCalman, Iain (May 2007). "The Virtual Infernal: Philippe de Loutherbourg, William Beckford and the Spectacle of the Sublime". Romanticism on the Net.
  5. ^ coordinators, Andrew Ellis, director ; Sonia Roe, editor ; Julia Abel Smith & Richard Garner, catalogue (2007). Oil paintings in public ownership in the Government Art Collection. London: Public Catalogue Foundation. p. 183. ISBN 1-904931-42-1.
  6. ^ Mackay, Charles (1852). Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions. 1. London. p. 288.
  7. ^ Philip James de Loutherbourg, BBC, accessed August 2011

External links

1740 in art

Events from the year 1740 in art.

1781 in art

Events from the year 1781 in art.

1793 in art

Events from the year 1793 in art.

1801 in art

Events in the year 1801 in Art.

1803 in art

Events in the year 1803 in Art.

1812 in art

Events in the year 1812 in Art.

Cabinet des estampes et des dessins

The Cabinet des estampes et des dessins (Print room) is a museum in Strasbourg in the Bas-Rhin department of France. It is dedicated to the municipal collection of prints (estampes) and drawings (dessins), but also woodcuts and lithographs, covering a period of five centuries from the 14th to the 19th. The municipal collections of graphic art since 1870 are displayed in the Musée d'art moderne et contemporain and in the Tomi Ungerer Museum.

The collection, now counting over 200,000 pieces, was founded in 1890 by Wilhelm von Bode during his rebuilding and reorganisation of the city's art collections. It includes works by Albrecht Dürer, Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Baldung, Hendrik Goltzius, Antonio Pollaiolo, Honoré Daumier, Philip James de Loutherbourg and the Master of the Drapery Studies.

Caspar Wolf

Caspar Wolf (Muri, Aargau, 3 May 1735 – Heidelberg, 6 October 1783) was a Swiss painter, known mostly for his dramatic paintings of the Alps. He was strongly influenced by Albrecht von Haller's poems on the Alps, and the Sturm und Drang movement. After 1773 Wolf mostly painted glaciers, caves, waterfalls and gorges.

Wolf was the son of a furniture maker, who was banned from his city. Wolf was trained in Konstanz, between 1753 and 1759 he worked in Augsburg, Munich, Passau as a decoration painter. Not being able to sell his work he went disappointed back to his home town. For Horben Castle he painted by hand the wallpaper on the first floor. In 1768 Wolf lived in Basel. From 1769 till 1771 he stayed in Paris and worked with Philip James de Loutherbourg. In 1774 he moved to Bern. Wolf made a deal with the local publisher Abraham Wagner who had a geological interest, to deliver 200 paintings. He travelled with Wagner or a minister Jakob Samuel Wyttenbach in Berner Oberland and Wallis. From 1780-1781 he was working in Spa, Cologne, Aix-la-Chapelle and Düsseldorf. He died in poor circumstances in a hospital.

In 1779 his prints were exhibited in Bern but the book failed to sell. Wagner received help from a Swiss army officer in Dutch service and in 1785 thirty aquatints were published in Amsterdam. Till 1948 ninety of these aquatints were exhibited in Keukenhof Castle, but sold. Today these works can be seen in the Kunsthaus in Aarau.

His son Theodor Wolf (1770–1818) was a still life painter.

Coalbrookdale by Night

Coalbrookdale by Night is an 1801 oil painting by Philip James de Loutherbourg.The painting depicts the Madeley Wood (or Bedlam) Furnaces, which belonged to the Coalbrookdale Company from 1776 to 1796. The picture has come to symbolize the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire, England. It is held in the collections of the Science Museum in London.

Loutherbourg undertook tours of England and Wales during 1786 and 1800, observing industrial activity at the time. Coalbrookdale by Night provides a view of the Bedlam Furnaces in Madeley Dale, downstream along the River Severn from the town of Ironbridge itself.


The Eidophusikon (Greek: Ειδωφυσικον) was a piece of art, no longer extant, thought up by the English actor David Garrick and created by 18th-century French painter Philip James de Loutherbourg. It opened in Leicester Square in February 1781.Described by the media of his day as "Moving Pictures, representing Phenomena of Nature", the Eidophusikon can be considered an early form of movie making. The effect was achieved by mirrors and pulleys.

A small exhibition centered on his Eidophusikon can currently be seen at The Huntington Library.

A full Eidophusikon, described also as a "small, mechanical theatre", was exhibited from June to November 2014 at the exhibition "Underworlds" (Unterwelten) in Dortmund, Germany.

The Eidophusikon consisted of a large-scale miniature theatre that let experiment the try of creating the perfect illusion of the moving nature: sunrise scenes, sunsets, moonlight images, storms, and volcanoes from all over the world with sound and music effects. The sound and light effects of the Eidophusikon, compared with the shows seen until that time, were specially inventive by their realism.

Fishermen at Sea

Fishermen at Sea, sometimes known as the Cholmeley Sea Piece, is an early oil painting by English artist J. M. W. Turner. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1796, and has been owned by the Tate Gallery since 1972.

The painting measures 36 by 48.125 inches (91.44 cm × 122.24 cm). It depicts a moonlit view of fishermen on rough seas near the Needles, off the Isle of Wight. It juxtaposes the fragility of human life, represented by the small boat with its flickering lamp, and the sublime power of nature, represented by the dark clouded sky, the wide sea, and the threatening rocks in the background. The cold light of the Moon at night contrasts with the warmer glow of the fishermen's lantern. Years later, Turner made a similar sketch, Moonlight at Sea (The Needles), c.1818, as an example of marine art for his Liber Studiorum.

The work shows strong influence from the work of marine artists such as Claude Joseph Vernet, Philip James de Loutherbourg, Peter Monamy and Francis Swaine, and the intimate nocturnal scenes of Joseph Wright of Derby. The image was praised by contemporary critics and founded Turner's reputation, as both an oil painter and a painter of maritime scenes. Art historian Andrew Wilton has commented that the image: "Is a summary of all that had been said about the sea by the artists of the 18th century."According to Walter Thornbury, the work was sold to General Stewart for £10. The painting was acquired by Sir Henry Charles Englefield; after his death in 1822, it was sold at Christie's on 8 March 1823, as View of the Needles, with the effect of Moon and Fire Light. It was bought by Englefield's nephew Francis Cholmeley, and it remained in the Cholmeley family for nearly 150 years, displayed at Brandsby Hall, and it became known as the Cholmeley Sea Piece. It was loaned regularly to the Tate Gallery from 1931, and sold to the Tate Gallery in 1972 by Francis William Alfred Fairfax-Cholmeley, with finance from the Beatrice Lizzie Benson Fund.

Four Times of the Day (Joseph Vernet)

Four Times of the Day is a series of four paintings depicting four times of the day: Morning, Midday, Evening, and Night by the French landscape painter Claude Joseph Vernet (1714–1789).They were painted in 1757 in Paris, and are held by the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. The paintings consist of four separate scenes depicting morning, midday, evening and night, a series created by several artists of the era including Vernet and Philip James de Loutherbourg.

Hammersmith Terrace

Hammersmith Terrace is a street of listed, brick-built houses in Hammersmith, London. All of the seventeen houses in the terrace are Grade II listed, except No. 7 which is Grade II*. The street was built in about 1770 and has been home to several notable artists.No. 1 was home to the Doves Press in the first decade of the twentieth century.No. 3 was once home to the actress and singer Rosemond Mountain (Mrs Mountain) (1768–1841). It was later home to the Arts and Crafts printer Emery Walker for 24 years, until he moved to no. 7 in 1903. The calligrapher Edward Johnston (1872–1944) lived there from 1905 to 1912 and is commemorated with a blue plaque.No. 5 was lived in by the artist engraver William Harcourt Hooper, at least until 1911.7 Hammersmith Terrace was home to the Arts and Crafts printer Emery Walker from 1903-33. It is now a museum.

No. 8 was home to May Morris, William Morris's daughter, and then the artist Mary Annie Sloane.

No. 10 was home to the art critic Frederic George Stephens.

No. 11 was the home and office of architect Fred Rowntree (1860 - 1927).

No. 12 was home to A. P. Herbert, humorist, novelist, playwright and law reform activist until his death in 1971.

No. 13 was home to the artist Philip James de Loutherbourg until his death there in 1812.No. 15 was lived in by Sir Clifton Wintringham (1720–1794), physician to the King.The writer Arthur Murphy (1727–1805) lived there for many years.


Moonlight consists of mostly sunlight (with little earthlight) reflected from the parts of the Moon's surface where the Sun's light strikes.

Resolution (beam engine)

Resolution was an early beam engine, installed between 1781–1782 at Coalbrookdale as a water-returning engine to power the blast furnaces and ironworks there. It was one of the last water-returning engines to be constructed, before the rotative beam engine made this type of engine obsolete.

The Camp (play)

The Camp: A Musical Entertainment is a 1778 play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, with assistance from John Burgoyne and David Garrick. The set designs were by Philip James de Loutherbourg. The play gently satirised the preparations of the British to organise home defences during the American War of Independence when an invasion of the British Isles by France, and later Spain, seemed imminent. It focuses on a military camp placed near Coxheath in Southern England. It premiered on 15 October 1778 at the Drury Lane Theatre.

The play was produced at a time when a genuine sense of crisis swept the country following France's entry into the war which culminated in the failed Armada of 1779. Because of his death while working on the play, Garrick is sometimes said to be the only casualty of the French invasion.The play proved to be a hit. It was the most performed work at the Drury Lane Theatre during the 1778-1779 season, comfortably beating School for Scandal.

The Maid of the Oaks

The Maid of the Oaks is a comedy play by the British playwright and soldier General John Burgoyne, known as Gentleman Johnny. It was originally written in celebration of the forthcoming marriage of Edward Smith-Stanley, heir to the earldom of Derby, and Lady Elizabeth (Betty) Hamilton, daughter of the late James Hamilton, 6th Duke Hamilton and Brandon. Burgoyne was the uncle of the groom and in charge of the lavish masquerade and garden fête, which took place at Lord Stanley's hunting lodge, The Oaks near Epsom, Surrey.

For the event, which took place 9 June 1774, no costs were spared and Burgoyne enlisted the help of two of his close friends, the actor-manager David Garrick and the architect Robert Adam. Garrick had organized the "Music, Vocal Instrumental & Dancing', which was 'perform'd by the Musicians, Singers & Dancers from all the Theatres". The Oaks itself was too small a building to entertain the large number of invited guests, therefore Robert Adam created a temporary "magnificent salon ... illuminated and decorated with the utmost elegance and proportion". The complex ground plan of this pavilion was published in The Works in Architecture by Robert and James Adam (3 vols., 1773-1822). It shows that the temporary structure contained with 8,200 square feet (762 square meters) the largest room Adam ever built or decorated in his entire career.Not surprisingly, the lavishness of the celebrations at The Oaks caused a lot of publicity in the papers and magazines of the day. Burgoyne and Garrick decided to capitalize on this by creating a highly profitable stage version, for which the original libretto of the masque was stretched from two to five acts by including additional songs, dances and theatrical interludes to recapture the spirit of the enchanting rural entertainment.

The premiere at Drury Lane Theatre on 5 November 1774 was a triumphant success. The set designs were by the artist Philip James de Loutherbourg. The transparent scenery was lauded by the Westminster Magazine in its review although the critic was not impressed by the play. It was Burgoyne's first work, and he went on to write three further plays following his service in the American War of Independence.

The Oaks, which gave its name to the Oaks Stakes run at the Epsom Downs races each year in early June, was demolished in the 1950s. The gardens and some of the remaining outbuildings form part of Oaks Park (London).

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