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Anne Langton - Gentlewoman, Pioneer Settler and Artist: The Grand Tour - Part One - Page Banner

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The Grand Tour tradition was originally intended to refine the sensibilities of young, upper class (usually male) travellers, or "tourists." Influenced by aesthetic philosophies of the Sublime, the Beautiful and the Picturesque, tourists "viewed" wide landscapes as though they were paintings.

The family's itinerary took them through Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France. The children received art training from drawing masters wherever they stayed for more than a few days and sometimes, even en route.

Their first prolonged stay was near Yverdun in Switzerland, where the educational reformer Johannes Pestalozzi had established an institution at Yverdun Castle to provide education for orphans from the Swiss Wars. His novel system encouraged nurturing each child's innate abilities, attention to sensory perceptions and reasoning based on first principles rather than mere rote learning. John Langton was soon enrolled at the Institute, while William, because of ill health and Anne, on account of her gender, received private lessons in town from Institute masters.


Champitet, (near Yverdon) Switzerland, [ca. 1825]
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Champitet, (near Yverdon) Switzerland, [ca. 1825]
Anne Langton
Graphite on cream wove paper
Reference Code: F 1077-9-1-35-1
Archives of Ontario, I0008485

A typical day during their stay at Champitet [Champ-Pittet] on Lake Neuchâtel near Yverdon [Yverdun], in 1816, is described in detail in a letter from Thomas Langton to his sister Cicely Hornby in England:

" Our arrangements for the children are as follows. William and Anne go into town every morning, where they pass three hours at the apartments of Mdlle. Bourgeois, which she has obligingly offered, an offer of which we were very glad to avail ourselves. They will there have lessons in music, French, geography, geometry and arithmetic, and perhaps German. We dine at two, and the afternoons they will have to themselves, with the exception of a little Latin and Greek that William and I shall amuse ourselves with, but which I daresay will be of no great matter, and of an hour and half [sic] three times a week, which the drawing-master will claim, from half-past five to seven."

(Letters of Thomas Langton to Mrs. Thomas Hornby, 1816-1818 (LTL, 99)

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The Langtons' travels took them along precipitous, "sublime" mountain ranges, beside the shores of "beautiful" lakes that lay cradled in Alpine valleys and through "picturesque" villages and pastoral countryside. The children sketched as they travelled as well as in the places where they took up residence for a period of weeks or, in some cases, months at a time.

The landscapes and cityscapes amongst which the children spent their most formative years form a catalogue of delights: Frankfurt, Interlachen, the Austrian Tyrol, the Simplon Pass, Milan, Florence, Rome, the isles of Procida, Ischia and Capri, then on to Naples and Sorrento and a gradual wending north, heading for Paris ...


Yverdon, Switzerland, [ca. 1825]
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Yverdon, Switzerland, [ca. 1825]
Anne Langton
Monochromatic watercolour
on cream wove paper
Reference Code: F 1077-9-1-35-2
Archives of Ontario, I0008486

Note: The images here and above of Champitet and Yverdon appear to have been created by Anne at a later date, possibly in the 1820's.

The family was similarly drawn to such cosmopolitan tourist venues as art galleries and museums - including the Uffizi and the Pitti - St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, St Mark's in Venice, and noted sights such as the home of Protestant reformer Martin Luther in Heidelberg, Vesuvius, and the ruins of Pompeii. Many of these views and sights appear in the art by William and Anne Langton; three of these sketchbooks are in the Langton collection at the Archives of Ontario.

In the fall of 1817 the Langtons travelled to the south of France where they spent the winter in Montpellier. Here they followed a similar routine to the one in Yverdun.

" We often wish you could take a peep at us, and as I often say [,] how surprised you would be... One [of us is] taking a lesson in Italian in one corner; another writing a French exercise surrounded by dictionaries, grammars, and the necessary assistants of that sort; whilst the third is looking in despair at her translation and preparations for future study... The young ones, with hands and faces not a little soiled from a recent drawing lesson, are occupying the third table, covered with the rubbish of their different amusements, such as coins, stones, paints, and paper. A miserable hearth finishes this comfortable scene....But notwithstanding[,] we are very happy and comfortable."

Ellen Langton postscript to a letter from Thomas Langton, Montpellier,
France, winter 1817, to his sister Mrs. Thomas Hornby, (LTL, 162-3)

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The Langtons enjoyed friendships with tourists of various nationalities; also cultural figures, including noted travel writers Mariana Starke and Isaac Weld. Starke was author of early travel guides for tourists to Europe. She was currently on an extended trip to gather more materials as she prepared to update the guides for new editions. Weld was already famous for his volume, Travels Through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada during the years 1795, 1796 and 1797.

It is not difficult to imagine the fascination and influence that these writers almost certainly held for Anne Langton at an impressionable young age, as well as in later years, when she chronicled some of her own travels and emigration experiences.